When I ask business owners, of any size businesses, what their job description is, the most common answer I get is “That’s simple…I do everything!” So naturally, being the curious business coach that I am, I have to ask, “What does everything include?” It usually includes long days filled with things like doing work in the field, fighting fires, running out for supplies, supervising crews, paying bills, accounting, and even cleaning trucks and bathrooms.
If “I do everything” is your job description too, this could be one of the major sources of slow growth, stress and frustration in your business. These “everything” tasks eat up your day and keep you from doing the things that you, as the owner, need to do to grow your business – things like planning, marketing and sales, employee development and structuring the work so that your business runs efficiently and consistently satisfies your customers.
So, in effect, because so much of your time is spent doing basic field and office tasks that don’t grow your business, your business growth slows and eventually stops. I call this problem the “Growth Trap,” and it’s as common in multi-million dollar businesses as it is in start-ups. In fact, the “Growth Trap” is one of the most common reasons that I see for stalled business growth and soaring stress and frustration.
As a startup, or $100,000 business with one crew, it’s OK to be the “I do everything” owner. In fact, your stamina and ability to do it all is one of the keys to getting your business off the ground. But as you grow and add crews, it’s critical for you to evolve your management style and systematically “let go of doing” the basic field and office work and dedicate more time to building your business.
Ideally, letting of doing the work should be a well-planned out, gradual, step-by-step process of delegating more and more to your team and cultivating key people to run parts of your business. By the time you have three to five crews and several hundred thousand dollars in sales you should have developed crew leaders and crews that can run without you so that you can dedicate at least 50% of your time to management tasks that build your business. And by the time you cross the $1,000,000 threshold your success will depend increasingly on having key leaders who can run parts of your business (possibly someone in sales and marketing and someone operations) so that you can spend the majority of your time managing and building the business. Yet as a coach, I meet $1,000,000 and larger business owners every week who are still trying to do everything!
Here’s how one of my clients described the problem:
“I ran our 40 person company like we had 7 people. I never took the time to tell my team what to do and then hold them accountable to do it, and then I wondered why they did things that drove me crazy. I spent my time doing their work and then I wondered why I wasn’t getting things done. I wasn’t doing things to help move the company forward, I was making them dependent on me!”
Bottom line: Your growth and success depends on your ability to delegate and get the basic day-to-day office and field work done through your people, so you can focus an increasing share of your time on “owner-worthy” activities that truly contribute to creating a smooth running business with consistent growth and profit.
Are you still an “I do everything” owner?
Come on, admit it, I won’t tell! If you are (even some of the time), here a five things that I work on with my clients, that you can do too, to help you let go of doing the work and so that you can dedicate more time to business building
1. Define what your job, as the owner, should be:
Write your own job description. First, describe how your role contributes to the overall success of your business and results are you responsible for. Then define what your key job responsibilities should be as owner and the areas you need to invest your time on to help your company achieve your goals? This is an eye opening exercise you definitely should do!
Clearly defining your job is critical so that you can focus your energy and time on the work that you, as the owner, must do to ensure the success of your business. Defining your job will also highlight what work you shouldn’t be doing so that you can either eliminate it all together or delegate it to your tea
2. Take a hard look at what you do every day and eliminate or delegate tasks that aren’t your job.
Make a list of everything that you do at work, daily, weekly, monthly, big and small. Include things like fighting fires, handling customer complaints and running errands. You will probably have a very long list. Most of my clients come up with lists of 50 or more tasks!
Eliminate or delegate tasks that aren’t on your job description. You should be able to remove about 30% to 60% of your task and replace them with tasks that can really improve your business
3. Put the work where it belongs
Delegate the work that’s not part of your job to the person who is in the best position to do it. If no one in your business fits the bill then consider outsourcing (like accounting, bookkeeping or web design).
This seems obvious but it’s more challenging than it sounds, because, of course, no one can do the work as well as you and it’s quicker and easier to do it yourself than train someone else to do it. But delegating work that isn’t your job is key to your success and to your sanity. So take the time to create procedures and train and coach your people to do the work that you delegate to them
4. Replace hands on management with a new , “hands free” system of controls
Getting work done through others is one of the hardest skills that you may have to master as a business owner. It feels so out of control. So to retain control without having to micromanage, which eats up too much of your time, replace hands on management with a new system of controls: (a) Create and train your people on procedures and expectations for how you want work done. (b) Create a system to measure the results your crews produce (such as profit per job, estimated hours vs. actual, estimated material costs vs. actual, or number of go backs or customer complaints per 10 jobs). This will allow you to spot problem areas without having to drive around and visit each job. (c) Manage through meetings. Hold regular meetings with your crew leaders, crews, sales people and office staff to monitor, mentor, and manage their behavior and to understand their challenges and concerns.
5. Schedule dedicated time in your calendar to get your work done
Now that you have freed up time, schedule your most important owner job responsibilities into your calendar and do this work religiously! Experience shows that freeing up time is not a guarantee that it you will use it productively. Other urgent, but not important tasks will magically spring up and vie for this time. Protect this time like a guard dog and use it productively on that important, but not urgent, work that is on your job description. This is the key to growth.
Achieve dramatic results!
My clients have seen dramatic business turnarounds when they’ve implemented the five activities that I’ve prescribed here to let go of doing everything and focus their time on the activities they need to do to grow the business. You too can break free of your “Growth Trap” and get your business growing strong if you follow my advice. Then repeat these activities once a year to ensure that you keep evolving how you manage your company to help sustain your consistent growth and profit without stress and frustration! Click here for more info on business growth and avoiding the Growth Trap!