Being a business owner is probably one of the toughest jobs there is and as a result, there is always huge pressure on you to get everything done during working hours. I have experienced this myself in two ways: firstly, over the last ten years or so of running my own business, and secondly, more poignantly, as a child when my parents both ran their own businesses.
As a child, your perspective of life is rather different than as an adult. Children have a very simple view of life. If you are not having fun, then why would you bother doing something? As a child with self-employed parents, I found it annoying that my friends’ employed parents were always home by 6pm, were around all weekend to be with them, and that they went away on holiday to lovely places 2-3 times a year, when my own experience was very different.
My father had left for work before I went to school, and was not home until late in the evening. Weekends were when he went in to the office to do the books, catch up on admin or finish an urgent job and holidays were at most a one week break in the UK, because he could not be away from work for too long. Luckily, we did not have email or mobile phones back then, so at least while we were away, our time was not interrupted by business issues.
So why is it that business owners experience such pressure on their time that they often allow the things that should be most dear to them to take a back seat? The truth is that in the early days of a business, they don’t have much choice. Getting a business started takes a lot of energy. Think of a big fly wheel that you have to turn by hand. To break the initial inertia, you have to put a lot of force into turning it, then as it starts turning that force can be reduced because the flywheel has its own momentum, but if you let the flywheel slow then you have to apply more force to get it going again.
The problem is that most business owners never get their business to a stage where it can create its own momentum, so they are always having to put in the force to keep it turning. So what are they missing? How can you get your business to create its own momentum?
Well, you have to look at the areas of the business that cause the most inertia, i.e. the areas that can slow a business down. The first is sales and marketing. Until a business has a robust sales and marketing plan in place that is not reliant on the business owner, it will always be a cycle of: work hard to get the business, then work hard to do the business, then work hard to get more business and repeat ad infinitum.
What is needed is a marketing ‘machine’ that constantly brings in enquiries from genuinely interested people, who are in a position to buy your products or services. This machine should incorporate multiple marketing strategies, so that if one was not effective for a period, there are others that would be and therefore the leads would not dry up. The strategies should be systemised and delegated to other people, measured to prove a positive return on investment and improvements tested constantly.
In addition, there needs to be a systemised sales process that maximises the conversion of these enquires that can be followed by well trained sales people. This will include scripts, standard letters and quotes and a follow up system that keeps in touch with people, even if they say “no, not now”.
The second area of inertia is people. I see a lot of business owners that would rather work 80 hours a week than employ somebody to do half of the work for them. There seems to be two common explanations or excuses for this. The first is that the business owner feels that they cannot afford to employ somebody and the second is that they think that they can do the work quicker and better themselves.
Both of these excuses stem from an erroneous belief that the day to day work they are doing is the most important work they can be doing as a business owner. Their challenge is that they are running a business with an employee mentality, not a business owner mentality.
From an employee’s point of view, it is working that brings in the money. They trade their time for money and they believe the mark of success is a certain annual salary or hourly rate. But a true entrepreneur thinks differently. They know that that it is not the work that brings in the money, but the ideas generated. One idea that happens in a flash and is successfully implemented can make hundreds, thousands, even millions of pounds. So the more time an entrepreneur has to THINK, the more money they can make. To this end, they have no choice but to learn how to delegate and build a team that will work IN the business so that they can work ON the business.
The added bonus is that great ideas happen best when you are relaxed and having fun, so making time to do the things you want to do, such as spend time with your family and pursue interests outside of work, has got to be the most valuable use of your time that there is. After all, nobody lays on their death bed and wishes that they had worked harder.
So go on, take ACTION and make time to think like an entrepreneur!
This blog post was written by Kevin Stansfield of ActionCOACH Solent. Kevin works with many entrepreneurs and helps them to build commercial, profitable enterprises that work without them. Contact Kevin to book a complimentary business review.