Is working harder the way to make your business more successful?
I’m willing to bet that when you started or bought the business you’re running, you had a vision – and it didn’t include working 60 hours a week just to keep up. But many small business owners are doing just that. Are you one of them?
I’m reminded of an article I read in the business section of The New York Times some years ago about work habits of managers. Although the story is ‘pre-laptop’, the lesson still applies.
An industrial psychologist shadowed a busy executive at work for two days. Each night this executive left his office late, carrying two briefcases stuffed full of paperwork he intended to finish at home. Early each morning he returned to the office with the same two briefcases – unopened.
During the 10 or 12 hours the executive was at the office, he worked like a dog, constantly on the phone and checking on his assistant and his staff. But no matter how hard he worked, he never got to the papers in his briefcases. He was running on a treadmill and couldn’t get ahead.
When the industrial psychologist analyzed this executive’s daily routine in detail, he found that over 80% of the tasks that were keeping the executive so intensely busy could have been done, and possibly done better, by a subordinate. He was spending his time on tasks others could have done and micro-managing his employees.
Sound familiar? Are you spending valuable time each day doing work that could be delegated to an employee or outside contractor? Are you wasting time micro-managing your staff? These management habits are big barriers to the growth of your business.
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Small business owners wear many hats, developing products and services, marketing, managing employees and keeping customers happy. It’s easy to get sucked into solving immediate problems, answering endless email and trying to make progress on your To Do list. But as the business grows, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for you to do both the hands-on, day-to-day management – call it the tactical work – and the goal setting and strategic work that will maintain business growth.
The executive described at the beginning of this article is a perfect example; he spent all his time on tactics, fighting fires instead of developing a strategy to keep fires from getting started in the first place.
Are you focused on doing the daily work instead of on growing your business? You can be the business or you can run your business, but as your business expands, you can’t do both.
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How can you shift from being the business to running your business? Try this for starters:
When you start your day tomorrow, don’t look at your To Do list. Before you even check your email, make a NOT To Do list. That’s right; list all the things that you, as the owner of the business, should not be spending your time doing.
Now make a second list of the tasks and projects that will require or benefit from outside expert help.
Third, list the tasks or projects that only you, with your talents, brains and experience can do and want to do.
Here’s a short sample to give you the idea:
NOT To Do (Tactical work to delegate to others)
- Sort and respond to most emails
- Deliver products and services
- Make sales calls
- Follow-up with prospects and customers
- Web site management
Use Experts To Do (Things your company doesn’t have sufficient in-house time, experience or expertise in these areas)
- Taxes and accounting
- Developing marketing strategy
- Copy writing
- Layout and design of marketing materials
- Legal advice
Only I Can Do (Short and long-term strategic planning)
- Development of vision
- Creation of strategy
- Oversight of strategy implementation
- Contact with your most important clients
- Reviewing the numbers and direction
Ultimately the success of your business will be determined by the role you play in it. Get a handle on your time by checking your Not To Do list daily and focus on the strategic tasks that will help you lead your business to the top!