Most businesses start out because someone decided that they could make money doing what they love. The first few months, maybe even the first few years, are focused on doing what they do best. They are passionate, excited to go to work, 100% dedicated to their trade. However, after time passes and our business starts to grow, we all get caught up in the drudgery of our daily tasks. We stop doing what we love and instead start to focus on just keeping the business running. This is normally when all the problems start to break out. As owners, we get stressed, passing that tension on to employees, who pass it on to customers. Sales start to drop, quality and productivity fall. Perhaps sales are not dropping yet, but your business now just feels like work. It is no longer fun. You’re too busy to see straight and little things are falling down the cracks.
Don’t deny it: we have all been there and many of us are there now. As a small business consultant, I talk to a lot of business owners who are burnt out, exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, even if your business is booming. Many of us make the mistake of starting out doing what we love but then handing our passions over to employees, while we jump into a management role and start grinding away at just maintaining the status quo.
Over the years, I have learned a better way of running a sustainable business while preventing burnout and getting stuck with tasks that you neither like nor are very good at.
1. Hire or outsource to do the things you can’t
Remember that you are the resident expert in your business. You have been successful thus far because customers have come to know, trust, and seek out the quality and excellence that you provide. Don’t throw that away because you think you need to be a jack of all trades, becoming the manager, account executive, bookkeeper, marketer, and web developer. The key to successful business is to surround yourself with people who allow you to focus on what you do best by letting others take care of all the rest (did not mean to rhyme, but it is kind of catchy anyway).
2. Say no to things that are not important
As a business owner, we are bombarded with people that will drain our time. Countless sales people want to meet with us, friends want to pick our brains, charities want to talk about donations, organizations want you to speak at their events, and employees want you to solve their personal problems. None of these things are bad, but all together they can weigh you down and distract you from what really needs to be done. It is important to keep up with new technology and tools in the market; you should be an active member of the community; and employees should have access to you, just not all the time nor all at once. Remember that you are in control of your schedule. Set small amounts of time aside for all of these tasks on a monthly basis. For example, I like to have one day a week where I reserve a couple of open hours to meet with people who have something to share or need my help or involvement, but outside of that, I have to stay focused on my tasks. That means when my open hours are full, I have to book people further out. Sometimes it is two to three weeks out but, once I sit down with people, I am able to give them my full and undivided attention without sacrificing the other important stuff.
3. Don’t stop doing what you love
My first love is writing, yet somehow it is the first thing I let go when I get busy. For me, writing is a great outlet; it is what I have built my business on so it is very important that I keep it up. Yet, my readers most likely have noticed that I have not posted many articles in the last few weeks. I failed to protect my time for what I love. I got caught up in the day-to-day grind, and it has cost me. Writing is not only a marketing tool for me, but it is the way that I unwind and relax. When I don’t have time to write, I feel distracted. Thoughts get jumbled in my head and soon I began to feel stuck and stagnate. I started Common Sense Development with the goal of using my writing to inspire, motivate, and help others. My writing turned into consulting contracts, teaching engagements, and executive coaching sessions, but first and foremost my business has to keep true to its original purpose of producing the best content I can for my readers.
I use myself as an example, but how often do we all get too busy to actually do what we love? Moving forward, we all need to take better care of remembering why we started our businesses in the first place. We all need to take a step back and reserve as much time as possible to run our business by doing what we do best, what we love, and what created our success in the first place.