I realize that I direct this letter to the small business owners among you, which is understandable given that is who I am. If you are not a small business owner, however, you can still benefit from the information I share here each month. Running your career, whatever it may be, as if it is a business will enhance both your experiences and profitability. Incorporating some of these ideas now might make 2012 a better year for you.
As an entrepreneur and business owner for the past 20+ years, I have faced many hurdles — lack of cash flow, sluggish sales, ballooning expenses and failed projects among them. But the biggest hurdle by far has been figuring out how to find the time to plan and grow when I am consumed with the day-to-day tasks required to just keep things moving forward. Every business owner faces this dilemma. How you respond to it can make or break you.
It is a mistake to assume that you have to spend all of your time on the day-to-day duties of your business. If you do this you are not moving your business forward. It may appear to you that you will fail if you do not watch every penny and every employee, stock the shelves, do the accounting and field calls from customers; it might seem logical that this is so – but it is not. Your job, your responsibility, lies elsewhere. A much touted example of this is that you don’t see Donald Trump dealing cards at the blackjack table. The successful and smart business owner knows that the goal is to create a business that can run without you.
Michael Gerber, called “The World’s #1 Small Business Guru” by INC, suggests in his book “The E-Myth” (E stands for “entrepreneur” in this 1985 book) that every business owner has three roles they must play: entrepreneur, manager and technician. Guess which one you should spend the most time on? Right. In the entrepreneurial role you are dreaming, visioning, planning, researching, organizing and then taking action on those items you believe will best take you from Point A to Point B. During start-up this is all you do but you must continue doing this throughout the life of your business.
As the business grows, you are forced into managerial tasks as you need more people to carry out the work load. This stage can get very challenging and time-consuming. Putting procedures in place to insure the business is run in the way it needs to be is critical here. But most entrepreneurs are not crazy about spending their time managing people or writing employee handbooks. The unfortunate result is that the owner will take over tasks that he or she does not trust will be completed efficiently and accurately.
You are acting as a technician in your business when you spend most of your time dealing with what needs to be done each day to satisfy customers or get the product out the door. You are on a treadmill of daily chores. This is when the business starts running you instead of the other way around. You cease building value or moving things forward.
You need to fulfill all of these roles at different times, depending on the maturity of your business, but Gerber says too many business owners reduce themselves to technicians whose sole focus is a daily to-do list. They do not take the time to assess where the business is, solve problems or to plan for the future.
Studies confirm that most entrepreneurs function 10% as entrepreneurs, 20% as managers and 70% as technicians. While there is no universal answer as to how much time you need to spend in each role, it is clear that only spending 10% of your time planning and growing your business is insufficient and will result in the stagnation or failure of your business.
Creating a business that can run smoothly and profitably without you is the goal. Easier said than done, of course, but if you can hire people you can trust, put procedures in place for day-to-day tasks to be completed accurately and stop yourself from giving into fear and jumping in and doing everything yourself, you have a shot at a business that can make it even in today’s economy. Remember that your role is not that of an employee — it is to plan and grow the business.
For more information on “The E-Myth,” and help creating a more successful business, go to www.e-myth.com.