Your time is under pressure from all sides. From your business, from your home life, from the little voice – easily forgotten, but ever-present – that requests, pretty please, if there could be some time you could have to relax.
In all this, there may not be the time to do that work – the business-generating work – that is required if your business is going to grow. You might find that, because of all this pressure, you don’t even want your business to grow at all.
This is a problem. However, fortunately, the solution is simple. Yet, it’s one that, in the heat and stress of the moment, people rarely actually enact.
So, it’s time to take another look at the structure of your business.
You are Your Business…
Many people start off in their business doing all the work themselves. You might be the marketing and the sales department, the customer service department, the finance team, the product design group, the logistics manager, and the CEO – all in one go.
At the beginning, when your business is still small, this can be manageable. Yet, as your business adapts and grows – as it moves through the stages ‘struggle’ and ‘fun’ to ‘white-water’ – you’ll find that the attention it demands will grow too.
You’ll realise then that there really are only so many hours in a day.
But are You the Obstacle?
This stage, ‘white-water’, is when your sales overpower your strategies to deal with them. When running your own business, everything is cushty when you are working forty or fifty – maybe even sixty or seventy – hours a week. However, you can’t keep this up.
You’re going to get to the point where this is just unsustainable. When your sleep and your creativity will suffer. When you have no time for your family or friends. And when you just have no energy for that next pitch, that next meeting. At this point, you become your business’s worst enemy.
It’s here that comes the crucial squeeze point, decision time. Some people might say, ‘I have enough clients, enough income, I’m happy – let’s keep it as it is.’ Others might say, ‘I just can’t do anymore; this business can’t grow any bigger; I don’t want that new client’.
If you’re the first person, great. Then you need to think about maintaining that income and going ‘less’, that’s your challenge. But if you’re the second – if you want your business bigger but don’t have the resources to manage it – then there is a problem. It is you that is holding your business back – and you need to consider how to stop being the obstacle.
Mindset and Skillset.
Time is a finite resource – and your business cannot grow if it is dependent upon your own availability. For your business to thrive, you need to free it from this constraint. You need to give to it more than you can offer personally. You might need to bring in someone else’s time.
This is all well and good. Yet the transition from working by yourself to working with someone else is not just a matter of numbers. It is a matter of mindset too.
We’re all taught that we have to be generalists, that excelling in all of your business’s departments is a virtue. But, at a certain stage, it just simply isn’t. As your business grows, and as you start needing to prioritise your time, you need to transform yourself from the jack-of-all-trades into the specialist. And you need to think about having someone else do the tasks to which you are less inclined.
This is so much easier to get used to when you are already in business with a partner or in a group. You are already used to working with people, to having a skillset that complements another person’s, to having the opportunity to discuss and brainstorm ideas with another.
On your own it’s different. Having a different perspective can come as a strain or shock.
However, remember the yacht test? This new perspective, this load off your shoulders and schedule, is for the best. Because your business must survive without you – or both you and it won’t survive.
If your business is in that crucial juncture, ‘white-water’, at which you can’t manage the demand, you need to turn your attention to structure. And this requires some thought.
There are plenty of options. From hiring an employee or a virtual assistant – to automating some of your processes. Hiring an operations consultant (like me!) to come in on a project basis and help you restructure. These are all part of your business’s structure which will take the load off you in the long run.
Do a Time / Skills Audit.
Firstly, consider the ways that you spend your time – and the ways that your time could be better spent. Do you find yourself dedicating days to data entry? Is there a task that you hate but that your business needs? Perhaps there is something that you feel hopeless at, but that still needs to be done?
As we discussed in another article, you might want to consider hiring a virtual assistant. These can liberate your time from some of the more menial jobs – and let you focus on the tasks more aligned to your skills.
As we said in that article, you should be focusing on the tasks that you enjoy and that no one else can replicate.
Talk to an Operations Specialist.
In my work, I help small businesses think about their optimal structure and processes. People like me provide advice on how you can provide your business with the structural assets it needs to manage the stress of white-water.
The point is that you don’t have to do all this alone. An expert in operations can show you how to get back the time that you are feel like you are lacking (so you satisfy that little voice in your head).
There’s no chance that your business can get to where you want it to be if you’re overwhelmed.
Yet there is no need at all to be overwhelmed. All you need to do is change the mindset, recognise your skill set, and delegate. The process can be hard, you might need help, but it is necessary for you to thrive in life and work – and for your business to thrive too.