Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences on our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: smart managers know when to let fires burn. Listen to this week's episode here.
The demands of running a business are well-known, and the stressors well-documented: ulcers, anxiety attacks, depression, and that’s just to start. I launched an enterprise chatbot platform three months after having baby. Entrepreneurs, especially newbies who are trying to get a startup off the ground, often run themselves into the ground trying to get it all done.
In the Journal of Managerial Issues, researcher Holly Buttner concluded that the majority of entrepreneurs experience stress from role overload and responsibility pressure, among other factors like role conflict. Many entrepreneurs like myself try so hard to do it all ourselves, especially in the beginning when money is tight, not realizing that we are actually harming themselves and our business more than we are helping.
In my time as an entrepreneur, I’ve made some big changes in how I approach the demands of my businesses. Though you may believe that there are only two ways to be more efficient with your time (do a greater amount of tasks, faster, or find ways to delegate) I have some other tips that will help you to delegate more efficiently and think more clearly about what to do next.
1. Work smarter, not harder.
When approaching a problem, I think everyone’s first instinct is to muscle it out, and just get it done fast. But, I cannot tell you how many times the phrase work smarter, not harder has saved me hours and hours of time and energy. Instead of trying to push the boulder up the hill, look at your other options: Can it be rolled downhill to another hill? Is there a winch nearby? Can you pay someone else to do it? Just a tiny bit of thinking and innovation before you start a project can change the entire game.
2. Start with your mission critical.
There’s a great analogy that if you want to build a startup that specializes in manufacturing cars, you have to first build a skateboard, then a bike, then a car -- instead of spending your time and money building the front of a car first. Really consider: What tasks are mission critical for your business to get it to the next stage, and to solve the problem you really want to solve? Continuing the analogy, in manufacturing a bike before a car, you’re trying to solve the problem of transportation, rather than trying to build a car from the first go.
3. No one is good at everything.
In entrepreneurship, you’re going to have to make the self-aware and critical decision -- what are you good at and what can you pass to other people who can do it better and faster? I can change the oil in my car, sure. But, it doesn’t make sense to spend a week of my time unpaid to teach myself how to do it, go get oil, get under the car, get dirty, have to find an oil disposal center, etc. It makes sense to spend the money to let someone else do it, in 30 minutes. I could potentially learn to code, but it makes more sense to hire someone who is better at it than I will ever be.
Related: 22 Habits of Successful Leaders
4. Don’t be the problem.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to hire people for your team who are good at identifying and prioritizing issues that need to be solved and getting that done without your intervention. They might be reporting on those issues, but they need to function separately. More importantly, you need to be okay with it and let it happen. Otherwise, you become the bottleneck -- you become the disfunction. Additionally, if you have employees who can’t help people work well as a separate function, who become that bottleneck, you’ll need to eliminate them.
5. Lists are integral.
There are wonderful and efficient ways to curate and manage your task list out there now; you needn’t keep it all in your head, nor should you. Whether you’re managing it on Excel, using Outlook or using a CRM tool, you need to find ways to get your list out of your head and in a place where it can be managed. Also, you don’t even need to own your list; you can use an assistant or a virtual assistant that manages that list on your behalf.
6. Know what not to do.
Almost as important as deciding what to focus on is deciding which things you will let fall away. Decide what things your product is not going to do, or what functionality you’re not going to perfect. Eliminate meetings you don’t need to have and say “no” more often than you say yes. Your discernment is paramount, and it may go against the voice in your head that comes from a place of lack, saying, If I don’t take this meeting, there may not be another one. Trust your gut and focus only on those things that matter.