What Is Your Entrepreneurial Kryptonite?
What comic book character best describes the entrepreneur? I think it would be Superman.
Entrepreneurs are the heroes of business. They start companies, execute tirelessly, and are on call 24 hours a day. In the early stages, they put their stamp on everything, assuming responsibility for all decisions. They’re the driving force behind all that gets done.
But just as in the Superman comics, there’s one thing that can knock the entrepreneur down. No, it’s not kryptonite -- it’s the failure to delegate. If you want to grow your business and maximize its potential, you must learn to hand over responsibility to others -- and the sooner, the better.
I have two friends who started a chain of indoor playgrounds for kids. After operating the business for three years, they’re generating plenty of cash and impressive profit margins for a retail business. Their goal is to grow the number of stores throughout their state and then take the business national. Will they get there?
I found that instead of focusing on growth, they still spend most of their time on basic administrative tasks. They’ve run into a trap that many entrepreneurs encounter: Because they’re so close to the business, they think they can do every job in the company better than anyone else. They can’t seem to loosen their grip, and, as a result, their business has plateaued. By simply handing over more administrative tasks (like answering the phone, taking orders and cleaning), they could significantly increase the amount of time they spend thinking strategically and growing the business. Remember, as your business grows, you need to spend more time working on the business, not in the business.
Consider two conversations I recently had with clients.
In the first, I spoke with a consultant who runs a good business and makes $100,000 a year. I respect her skills. I asked her what she was planning to do that day. She said: “I need to schedule a bunch of phone calls and meetings and fill up my calendar. Then I need to go buy boxes and packing material and tape and bring them back to the office and pack some marketing materials for prospects. Then I need to go to the post office and stand in line and mail everything out.”
I asked her how long that would take. “All day,” she said.
In the second conversation, I asked a good friend (also a consultant) about his day. He said, “I’ll be out meeting with prospects and clients, closing business in the morning, then I’m going on a 50-mile bike ride to train for the Ironman triathlon.” I asked how he could fit such time-consuming workouts into his schedule with all the bookings he needed to make, along with sending out presentation materials.
“Why would I do that stuff?” he asked. “I leave it to someone else.” He has a virtual assistant he pays $1,000 a month to handle all his administrative tasks. He makes more than $1 million a year.
It’s pretty clear that the difference between the consultant with the $1 million business and the one with the $100,000 business boils down to delegation.
Every successful business owner will, at some point, realize he needs to get out of his own way and delegate more responsibilities to his team. That “aha” moment will free you up to do whatever helps you use your unique talents and contribute more to the business.
The most successful business owners spend their time on what’s most valuable to growing their business, and they delegate the rest to others. I’d suggest my first client look into the following fixes:
1. Start by valuing your time.
By handing over more administrative tasks (like answering the phone, scheduling meetings, and sending out marketing materials), you can significantly increase the amount of time you have to spend on the big picture. When’s the right time to bring in this help? Today.
I hear you asking, How can I afford that? Wrong question. Ask yourself instead, How can I afford not to? Your time is too valuable to waste.
You don’t necessarily have to hire a full-time employee. Instead, bring on a virtual assistant and pay her by the hour. That person can handle scheduling, shipping, answering your phone, and responding to many of your emails for $10 per hour, perhaps working remotely from home. A small expenditure can give you the time you need to get in front of more investors, prospects, and clients.
I think of it this way: You either have a $10-an-hour assistant or you are a $10-an-hour assistant. As an entrepreneur CEO, is that all your time is worth?
2. Train and trust employees to take on more responsibility.
When you start a business, you’re the head of every department in the company. You’re responsible for every job function. But as you add people to your team, be sure to fire yourself from those positions and let them take over.
For example, you hire a new head of sales. That’s a good decision, one area of responsibility you can take off your list. Your new job is to let the person you’ve hired do their job. Get out of their way, and redirect the energy you had put into sales back into your role as entrepreneur CEO. Your superhuman energies are better invested when they’re focused on what is required to grow. By delegating, you’ll move your business farther and faster with less effort.