It’s easy to get trapped by our own limited thinking. One way small business owners do that is by believing that we have to be directly involved in everything that happens within our companies. This holds us back in a few ways.
- It means that if we’re going to be the ones to do something, we have to be available to do it. If a given hour is taken up by something else, then a new or better opportunity can’t be pursued.
- It means we limit our growth and income potential. If we think in terms of the billable hour, eventually we hit a wall. By ourselves, we can only work x number of hours per week. Assuming all we did outside of work was sleep and assuming we ate every meal at our desks, the most we could work is somewhere around sixteen hours per day. That’s it. We’re not going to get any more hours from a day. The only option is to increase our rates. Let’s face it — we might think we deserve $2,500 per hour, but realistically speaking, very few people are going to be willing to pay us that, so we’re going to eventually hit a wall with our hourly rates as well.
- It means that our businesses imprison us. We’re tying ourselves to our businesses around the clock. There can be no vacations, no sick days, and no emergencies, if we’re expected to be the ones to do the job 100 percent of the time. All of a sudden, something that was supposed to create flexibility in our lives has become a ball and chain. If we do take time off, it means lost revenue and lost opportunities.
- It means we can’t let go. We have to be able to step outside of our businesses. There will probably come a day when we want to sell out and move on to other things, but if our businesses can’t run without us, why would someone else want to buy them?
In order to overcome this, we have to start thinking about automation and delegation.
- Think automation. If it can be automated (set up once and then we don’t need to be available to oversee or do it going forward), then that’s usually the first choice. Find ways to automate the things you currently do. For example, if you currently host monthly tele-seminars, could you simply record yourself giving the presentation and then charge a fee for the audio download? By removing ourselves from the equation, we create an income source that can be generated while we sleep.
- Think delegation. Some things require a person to physically handle them. That might include customer service inquiries, technical support, or a whole array of tasks within a given business. The question is, do you have to be the person to do them? If not, you can hire someone (for considerably less than your hourly rate) to handle them for you, thereby freeing yourself to focus on more important roles within your company.
When we first start building our companies, our primary concern is finding new clients and starting to earn a paycheck again, but as we grow, it can be easy to get so intertwined with the daily work that we forget about the bigger picture. It’s important to step back often to make sure we’re building something that doesn’t require our physical presence 100 percent of the time.
How do you ensure that you’re creating a scalable company and not a ball and chain? What checks and balances do you use to make sure that your business can run without you?
Image from Flickr by zoutedrop