Starting and maintaining a profitable business is one thing, but what’s the point if you never have time to enjoy the success you’ve created?
Something we can all agree on is that starting a business is hard and making it successful is downright difficult! It takes a mountain of hard-work, discipline and dedication. However, for those who stick at it, put in the hours and maybe get a bit of luck along the way, the pay-off can be immense and the earning potential on a different level compared to when working a regular 9-5 job for somebody else.
However, just as the financial rewards increase, so does the level of responsibility and the demands on your time. You may end up with a multi-million-dollar company but you’re working 60-hour weeks and feel like you have a world of responsibility on your shoulders. Many successful business owners find themselves asking – was it all worth it? And it’s a very valid question – if you have all the money in the world but no time or freedom to enjoy it then really, what’s the point?
For many who are starting their entrepreneurial journey, this problem of being time-poor is something that tends to be put into the category of “I’ll deal with this later when I’ve become more successful”. However, if the correct foundations are laid early, this problem can be avoided from the outset so that when all your hard work does begin to pay off, you will find yourself rich with both money and time.
Begin with the end in mind
On the one hand, it is extremely important that early on in the development of your business you have a clear vision of your goals so you can develop systems and processes that align with these goals. Conversely, it is not smart to spend hours and hours planning for a future that may never materialise or writing and perfecting procedures that may never apply. So, this is a double-edged sword. It’s all about finding the perfect balance between prioritisation and planning.
We will discuss the importance of how to prioritise later in this article, but for now, it is important to understand the benefits of planning with the end in mind.
It is absolutely vital that you have a clear mission, and this must be the driving factor for all of your business decisions. Choices you make early in the life of your business are forever compounded as you move forward. When I set up my business my mission was to one day become financially independent; you too may want your income (and therefore the running of your business) to be independent of your input in terms of personal time.
If this is the case, or you want at least some of your time to be free of your business, it is important to constantly keep this in mind when forming the structure and key principles that drive your business. Obviously during the early stages of building your business your progress is reliant on your time and involvement. There is no getting away from that. However, so long as you always have your end goal in mind and make business decisions that are consistent with that goal, you shouldn’t stray too far from the beaten track.
For example, if you are trying to create a business that one day is (largely) independent of you, and you of it, it makes sense to create independent work email addresses and phone numbers from the start that aren’t liked to your name or personal phone. If you know you are going to use SMS’s a lot (i.e. you’re a service business), find an online SMS portal that can be used by yourself (and staff) on a PC from a shared login, rather than your personal mobile. This may seem obvious to some, but I ended up running my business off my personal phone for the first 1.5 years. This was fine in the beginning, but when I started hiring employees and needed to migrate to an online SMS platform, it was far harder than if I had used this from the start.
In the early stages of the business life cycle, it’s important to constantly be asking yourself – what am I doing now, that one day will be done by somebody else. What systems can I use and what policies can I create that will make this easier for somebody else to do, other than myself.
Plan According To Importance, Certainty and Difficulty
The previous section addressed the importance of keeping your key mission at the forefront of your mind and ensuring that you are constantly revisiting this when building the foundations of your business. While this is extremely important, it is crucial that you do not get carried away and end up spending your entire time planning and not executing. In fact, it is probably one of the most common pitfalls of aspiring entrepreneurs to spend too much time planning for every possible outcome, perfecting policies and procedures and never actually getting started.
This is where the concept of prioritisation really comes into its own. When thinking about the best use of your time, you need to consider:
- How much will this impact the growth and success of my business?
- How sure am I that this is relevant and will in fact be used now or in the future?
- How much time and effort needs to be put in to achieve this goal?
By truly understanding what to prioritise, you can ensure that you are allocating the scarcest resource (your time) to creating the foundations and framework for your business to grow, while not over engineering your planning for things that have a low impact and may never materialise. The example used above with the phone/email address was a great example that had high importance, high certainty and extremely low difficulty, so it’s a no brainer.
During the early stages of starting a business, you will not be able to have the kinds of advanced structure and processes that a larger company has. These take years of experience and compiled hard work to create and are actually often the result of repetitively working through day-to-day problems, figuring out what works and what doesn’t and then building procedures around what does. It’s impossible to start a business with everything you need, but if you can be clear on a few things such as your mission statement, your value offering and how you want to treat your staff and customers, it will be easy to draw on these values as you gain experience and then create more intricate policies/procedures as you go.
Understand what “Letting Go” actually means
Everyone who starts a business will be familiar with the concept of being told they will need to “let go” at some point. Your business is like your baby. Nobody else understands it the way you do and nobody has the drive or the understanding of what it needs more than you. Naturally, you will feel like almost every role in the business is done best when you do it, and this may or may not be true. The fact remains however that in order to grow and one day be more independent of your business, you need to learn to truly let go.
This concept definitely can seem more straightforward than it actually is. I, for one, thought I understood this concept, particularly as I have always been very focused on my goal of becoming financially independent. I thought that I was all about empowering people to help me run the business. However, as time went on and my business grew, I realised that I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching and in fact was holding on to responsibility far more than I needed to. I kept finding myself thinking that this aspect of the business needed to be done by me or this part of the running of the business needed the authority of the owner, but I was wrong. This was just the protective part of my brain overriding the parts that were focussed on the big picture.
The key to letting go and delegating authority is to gradually compartmentalise parts of your business into segments that somebody else can manage. I found that as my business grew, it became easier to see these segments. At first, I hired general “customer service and sales” assistants who worked on a range of functions and activities. As we grew it became clear that we needed more specialised roles and later entire departments of “specialists”. Every few weeks I would take a step back and ask myself, what am I spending the majority of my time on? Whatever that was, I would start thinking about a way to create a role that took part, or all of that responsibility away from me.
Creating a successful, profitable business is hard enough, so don’t end up succeeding in creating one and then having no time to enjoy it. It’s very easy to be aware of the concepts discussed in this article but at times forget them and stray off the path to your goals. So remember, if you begin with the end in mind, plan according to certainty and truly understand the concept of letting go, one day you may find yourself truly being rich in both money and time.
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