Many small businesses are like whirlwinds being ridden by their founders, who are attempting, with varying degrees of success, to exert some control over it. And while the attempts at control take on many forms, including managing cash flow, leading people, increasing sales, growing market share, etc., occasionally the owner asks in an almost rhetorical lament, “How do I get off of this thing for a little while?”
Indeed, perhaps the greatest long-term challenge in the life of a small business owner is not sales, profits, personnel or capitalization, but rather being able to successfully dismount the tornado to achieve some balance between professional and personal life. So how do you accomplish this dismount without creating a casualty list? Consider these five steps.
Webster’s offers two definitions of success: 1) a favorable outcome or result; 2) gaining wealth, fame, rank, etc. In order to take more time off from a successful business, embrace both definitions as twin goals of equal value; in the process, you’ll begin to recognize that living long enough to enjoy the fruits of the second definition with your loved ones must be part of your success definition.
Taking time off requires being able to leave your business with a trustworthy team. If the business is mature enough for you to unplug periodically but you’re still not comfortable with the idea, your instincts are probably good, but your hiring practices probably aren’t.
Next time you consider hiring someone, part of your criteria should include viewing this new person as a potential contributor to that trustworthy team. Don’t wait until there’s an opening to begin this process; start looking now for weak links and begin the process of strengthening the team chain with higher quality replacements.
Now that you’ve assembled that trustworthy team, their usefulness is limited if you don’t delegate. If you built your business from scratch, delegating probably won’t come easy; you’ve done all of the jobs and you know how you want them done. And even as employees have assumed some of these tasks, you’ve found comfort in knowing that as long as you’re nearby, things can’t get too far off track. Have your employees follow up with you on a regular basis.
There is an old saying that successful delegators must embrace: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” In 21st-century terms, if you cringe at the thought of how things won’t be perfect in your absence, get over it.
No one has to be completely unplugged anymore. There is plenty of affordable connectivity technology that will serve as your security blankie by helping you keep an eye on the store without actually being there. And if you’re really good, no one will notice that you checked your BlackBerry or iPhone while rolling over to tan the other side. You can also consider having key employees e-mail daily updates by a set time so you can check your inbox less often.
Remember our twin goals of success? If you’re not intentional about living a balanced life, you may accomplish the “wealth and fame” part of your success goal, but the celebration may involve others toasting you posthumously.