Most business owners think they know what their job is in their business. Most business owners are wrong. There is something odd that happens in between the period when someone decides to start a business and when they start making money. That person goes from being a visionary to being a grunt worker.
No one starts a business because they like to cross-off to-do lists. In fact, there are a couple of specific reasons why people go into business.
1. Pursuing Your Passion
People tend to start businesses because they’re passionate about something. That something usually isn’t the actual day-to-day work of that profession. The thing you’re passionate about is most likely the impact that you can have on people. If you’re in accounting, you want to help other businesses run smoothly and be financially secure. It’s unlikely you’re passionate about excel spreadsheets and auditing.
2. Making More Money
This is a common reason why people start their own business. Maybe you’re tired of watching someone else reap the profits from your labor. Maybe you’d like to pull up to work in a Mercedes instead of a Camry. It could be you liked the suits your former boss wore and realized that owning your own company was the only way to get there. No matter the reason, making money is a big part of owning your own business.
3. Improving Your Lifestyle
Many people dream of owning their own business so that they can have more control of their lifestyle. Depending on the kind of business you start, you may be planning on working remotely for the majority of your time. Travelling while running a business is becoming more and more feasible every year.
4. Expressing Yourself
This is also a common reason people start their own business. Feeling trapped in your job can lead you to desire a more free existence and the ability to make your own decisions and do what you think is best. Sometimes people get tired of the way their employer is treating clients and decide you can do it better. Everyone wants to leave their mark on the world. Owning your own business is a great way to do it.
5. Building a Great Idea
This may be the most common reason someone starts a business. Having a great idea and knowing that you can be the one to carry it out is a powerful motivator. Many businesses are started because someone sees a need or has an idea and then puts in the work to bring it to reality. This also ties into legacy because we all want to leave something behind other than just our memory.
Getting Lost Along the Way
So maybe you started a business for one of the reasons above. Either way, the chances are good that you quickly lost sight of that original purpose. This is because starting a business means a lot of things that people don’t take into consideration. Managing taxes, sending and tracking invoices, handling sales, marketing, operations, fulfillment, and customer service, all at the same time, can overwhelm you pretty fast.
In no time at all, you don’t remember what your real job is. Everything becomes a mad scramble to stay on top of it all. As you start to add employees and grow, it never gets easier. Your employees don’t learn about the real drive behind the company, they’re just happy to get a paycheck. You don’t have the time to share your motivation and inspiration because you’re underwater most of the time.
Your Real JOB
Technically, as a business owner, you have two critical roles in your organization. The first is to be the keeper and sharer of the vision. The other is to build and sustain a healthy and vibrant company culture. Those two things are your REAL job. They are the reasons you exist in the company and important to the company.
This is the brutal truth: anyone can work in your business. If you spend the majority of your day doing daily tasks and client work, then you are easily replaceable. Anyone can be taught skills.
What you have that no one else does is vision. You started your company because your vision was so powerful it moved you to risk everything to follow your heart. Any employees you may hire want a job. You started your business because that’s exactly what you didn’t want anymore.
Your vision had the power to inspire you, which means it has the power to inspire your employees. Your primary role in your business is to be the visionary. Your goal should be to spend as little time as humanly possible working on daily tasks. Your goal should be to spend your time looking at the future. You exist to predict, to plan, to innovate, and to inspire. You are the leader and motivator of your business.
Just as important as vision is culture. Culture can be a difficult concept to nail down, but it’s easy to see when it’s there and easy to see when it’s not.
Culture is essentially the pulse of your organization. With a strong culture, your business is vibrant, thriving, and healthy. With a weak culture, your business is sluggish, negative, and sick.
Building culture is neither difficult nor complex, it is simply overlooked. Culture is often sacrificed on the altar of expedience. Most often, business owners think they just don’t have the time to worry about culture. Or they think that culture will take care of itself.
When a business owner is too busy working in their business, they can’t pay attention to the culture. It’s often not until the culture deteriorates beyond recognition that the business owners becomes aware that there is an issue.
Building culture is not difficult. A healthy culture is one where employees can speak their mind without fear of negative consequences and genuinely feel that their opinion is valued. If employees come to work and these things are true for your business, you will have a strong company culture.
Weak cultures exist when business leaders do not respond well to feedback or never ask for it. Culture is also weak when employees are not able to air issues or grievances with their fellow employees without negative consequences. Obviously, employees cannot abuse each other, but there needs to be room for debate and discussion, especially about important things like operational integrity, customer service, marketing, and sales.
How to Spend More Time Doing Your Real Job
The next question then becomes: “how do I spend more time working on vision and culture and less time working on daily tasks?”
This is a nuanced question, but there are a few general ideas to start with.
The first thing you have to ask yourself is: are you prepared to let go of the client work and daily tasks that you’ve been handling? This is usually the main obstacle for business owners spending less time working IN their business. Business owners tend to feel like their business is their baby and they believe that no one else can do the work they do as well as they do. In many cases this may be true, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not necessary for someone to do the work as well as you do. It’s only necessary for someone to the work as well as it needs to be done. Business owners take great pride in their work and this leads them to spend more time than may be necessary on certain things. This is no necessarily a bad thing, but it is unreasonable for a business owner to expect their employees to take the same pride in their work as the owner. Letting go is essential for the business owners who wants truly grow their business.
Once a business owner has let go of their need to handle the work, it’s time to choose who should be handling that work. This can be a difficult process for a business owner because they feel like they want the perfect person to be handling each task. Again, it’s more important that the tasks get delegated. As long as you have fairly competent people working for you, they should be capable of taking on the new responsibilities.
Delegating is an absolutely essential skill for a business owner. There will always be more work to do and you will always feel tempted to believe that you’re the only one that can do it. Become accustomed to giving tasks to your employees. You need to see yourself as the visionary and the culture-builder. You can’t see yourself that way when you’re still handling mundane tasks for large portions of your week.
Once you have let go and started delegating, the next step is to understand the correct perspective as a business owner. Many business owners think that their business would fall apart without them. They don’t realize that while they see this as something to be proud of, it is, in fact, keeping them from their goals.
You don’t want a business that would fall apart without you. You want a business that runs like a clock without you. The reason so many business owners feel trapped in their business is because they are. They trapped themselves when they decided that they wanted their business to NEED them. It’s pure ego and it enslaves more business owners to their business than you can imagine.
A real business is one that functions WITHOUT you, the business owner. That’s only possible if you change your perspective to understand this. If you believe your business can run healthily without you, then it will. If you think your business can’t survive without you, then you will never be free from it.
How to Gauge When a New Hire Is Needed
This is a real skill that is often overlooked. The ability to understand when you need to hire a new employee is important.
This is not as important once the business is growing and you can afford to lose a little money. It’s absolutely essential when you are getting started and still counting pennies.
The way to judge when you need a new hire is at the point when you have two people’s worth of work to do. If you start out and you are working 40 hours a week, you should wait until you have 80 hours of work before you hire a full-time employee. Then you wait until you and your employee have 120 hours of work between you before you add a third employee.
To put it simply, when you are starting out, make sure that you have all the hours you are hiring for before you hire the employee. Hiring someone with the expectation of landing more business to pay them is a terrible idea and leads to failed businesses.
Again, as you grow this gets easier. The early stages of a business are critical and businesses often fail because they hire too quickly or don’t have the revenue to support new employees.
Putting It Into Practice
All the ideas in the world don’t mean anything without action. If you want your business to win, you have to take action.
The best place to start is by asking yourself a few key questions:
- Am I running my business the way I dreamed when I started?
- Do I have a vision and do my employees know what it is?
- Does my business have a strong company culture?
- Am I prepared to surrender my control and delegate my work?
- Do I want a business that runs without me?
The answers to these questions may surprise you, but they will give you something to think about. At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to you. You don’t have to change.
If you started your business to make a difference, I can promise you something. You won’t make a difference buried in daily tasks and handling client work. You can only make a difference if you’re doing your REAL job.