I was having lunch with my ex-accountant some years ago. We were talking about business owners and how difficult it was to run a business on your own when she came out with a statement I found surprising. She said to me, “you know Barb how it is as a ‘solo-preneur’? If you are not putting in 80 hours a week you are not working hard enough. I cannot believe how many business owners feel they don’t have to work and then whine about not having a successful business.”
Now I do know the type of business owner she may have been referring to; the one that does not put in their 110% to the business initially and still expects to have a 6-figure business or better. That is probably not a good combination. What surprised me was to know that after 10+ years in business herself, she was still working 80 hours a week.
I’m a firm believer that if you structure your business correctly and put the effort in to growing it in a reasonable and responsible manner then you should get to a point where the business is working for you and not the other way around.
This doesn’t mean I do not put in an 80 hour work week on occasion, but it does mean that it is an occasion that causes me to have to put in an 80 hour work week. I work hard to build a business that will eventually only require me to do the one or two things that are my passion and life’s purpose and all other tasks and positions within the company will be looked after by someone or something else.
Here are three key points to having a business that will give you time to spend with your friends and family doing the things you want to do. I guarantee you have heard them all before but I want you to think about how you can implement at least one point from each of these three areas right now and see what it does to free up your time.
“If you don’t know where you are going how you will know when you get there.” I don’t know who originally coined this phrase but I do know that it is absolutely true. You need a vision of what your business is going to look like when you are not doing all the work.
The Big Goal
Envision the final product (Your Big Goal). You need to know what it looks like so you can start building the plan.
Exercise: Pretend you have all the resources available to you and you could afford it. Now what does your business would look like if you had all the people you needed to do everything except the one or two pieces you want to look after yourself? Write it down or draw a picture of it. Make it as real as possible. The more you accept that as the reality of your future the more you will believe that that is where you are going and the easier it will be to get there. This is like getting buy-in from yourself to pursue the dream.
A great resource for building your business brand from your vision is the E-Myth Mastery by Michael E. Gerber.
Incremental goals must be in place for the big goal to be achieved. For example the Big Goal may be to have a website that you can run your business from. Some of the incremental goals may be to build a website using WordPress, tie in social media modules, get a shopping cart, create products to go on your website, set up a shipping alliance for your product delivery, etc.
Break down the goals into manageable steps and tasks. These should be something you can complete in a few hours or less. This way every step completed is an accomplishment that gets you closer to your ultimate Big Goal.
You do not need a formal business plan but you do need to capture your plans in writing, with your goals and steps, support systems, and financial estimates defined. It will look ominous so I suggest that you take one or two steps at a time to reach one incremental goal. Like the adage goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Take it one step at a time. Break your steps down into daily tasks on a ‘to-do’ list to make it more manageable.
Surprisingly, with this plan in place you will often feel there is more time for yourself much earlier than you expected because your progress and timeline will be clearly known to you. The overwhelm will feel less and the process will be more enjoyable.
I am fond of saying, “you can start a business on your own but no one can succeed in business alone.” I say this because when we start a business we sometimes don’t recognize how much work we have to do outside the core competencies we focused our businesses on. As our businesses matures we find ourselves overworked, once again trading our time for dollars. Don’t expect you will do it all yourself. Hire, contract, outsource, and automate whenever you can. Implement help every time your business does well so you feel you can afford it. Get the right people into the right positions (e.g. get a VA that knows online mailing programs if you need them to help you with your mailing campaign).
Look for the support outside your business, like a mentor, advisory board, coach, mastermind group, peer support, association, networking group, referral partner, JV, etc. Having someone outside your business to bounce ideas off of and get support in your decisions will be key to the amount of time it takes you to implement and the quality of your success.
Exercise: Create an organizational chart of all the positions within your company and fill in the name of the person that is currently doing that job. Your name may be in most of the fields. My first org-chart had between 30 and 40 positions. The bookkeeping, accounting and editing were done by other people and everything else was performed by me.
Now circle the two positions you want to do. These are the things you envisioned yourself doing when you visualized your future company. Put a line through the two positions you hate to have to deal with. These may already be managed by someone else and if they are not then off-load this work to someone else as soon as possible.
If you have so much to do how do you get it all done? Even with help we are still the manager of our business and we have to stay on track. There are many great tools out there to help you manage your time.
We all put a priority on working with our clients but we often do not do that for working on our business. What if I told you that meeting your referral partner was going to turn into a $20,000 sale? Would you go? Of course you would, but often we excuse ourselves from our networking events and other business building task because we do not see the immediate value. You must make business building a priority
Exercise: List all the things you do and put a priority on them. Label them as A, B or C. If it is labelled ‘A’ then this is something that must be done. You cannot trade this time for a client’s needs. You will be surprised how often I have said, I’m sorry I am not available until after 1pm does that work for you and they will say “Yes”. I have never had a client say, “sorry if you cannot meet me at this one time then the deal is off.”
Anything you prioritize as ‘B’ should be attended unless you have a real need from a client. If you have something else that is going to build your business or bring in cash that is an A priority the substitute it.
For items labelled with a ‘C’ you should be finding someone else to look after these. I love working on my website, coding HTML, creating e-mail layouts, etc. but it is not important for me to do that. I got a VA (Virtual Assistant) to manage all those tasks and now I have hours of extra time each month.
I like to start with the things I must do every week. I define a time for reoccurring events and then I put it in my day timer. I prioritize the items. For example, I have sample coaching calls. These calls are at the same time twice a week but the time is just set aside for a potential client. They are marked tentative until a client is booked. My BNI meetings on the other hand are a high priority and are booked every Tuesday morning for a year at a time. As far as I’m concerned these meetings are written in stone. If my clients or my referral partners are going to be there then so should I. For items like this I would write them in pen or put it as ‘Busy’ in my day timer so that I will not attempt to schedule something over top of it.
Don’t forget to plan your personal events as well. If you are the type of person that habitually misses family events because of the hours you put into your business then this point is important. Book the same time every week to do something that is for you, your family and/or your friends. It may be difficult at first to take that time off but after a while it will become your time. You do deserve this. For example, my exercise class is an ‘A’ priority because I know if I am not well, not only does my business struggle but so does my family. So this item is booked weekly for 3 months at a time.
Envision the business of your dreams, plan for it, get your support and manage your time wisely and you will have the business you need to enjoy your life the way you want.