Take me Through Your Typical Day
When you are a business owner, you will find this an impossible statement to respond to. As a business advisor, the most common response I get is 'There is no such thing as a 'typical' day'. This is both true and false. Many business owners do have certain routines they try to follow, and certain activities need attention on a daily and/or weekly basis. However, regardless of how this question gets answered, there is a really simple answer.
What Are the Two Activities That Must be Done?
I will get to that in a second, because I don't want to short change what business owners often will respond with.
When you start your own business, you are often (as they say) 'chief cook and bottle washer'. Payroll. Hiring. Firing. Accounting. Sales. Operations. Customer Service. Trainer. Supervisor. Manager. Production. Cleanup. (my favorite: ) Fire Fighter! Open. Close. On and on and on...
I don't want to ignore any of these jobs, as they are all very important activities that must get done on a regular basis (well, hopefully not firing). However, as a business owner if they are making money and the last answer you hope they give is, 'I don't know.'
Sadly, I have actually heard that answer in response to the question...
I've Heard it Called the Superhero Complex
When you get down into the trenches, you don't want to stick your head out. You might not like the result (see the end of All Quiet on the Western Front to see what I mean). So, you stay in the trenches hoping that what's going on outside the trench is still working. Problem is, the business owner often spends too much time in the trenches and not enough time on the outside looking in.
By the sheer force of will, they will manage to make their company successful and, of course, who can do it better than they can? They often believe the only way they will know what is going on in a single job function is if they handle it themselves. So, down in the trenches, they focus on that activity until it is working the way they want it to. When something else goes wrong, they focus on that activity until it is working they way they want it to. When something else goes wrong...
I think you get the point.
So, when you have a list of 10 or more things that every business owner is doing, what are the two things every business owner must do?
1. Things That Make You Money
2. Things That Don't Make You Money (But You Have to do Them Anyway)
Yes, that sounds simple, and it really is. Keeping records of your sales (accounting) is a vital step in the business process. So is keeping records of your expenses. Without these two numbers, you don't know how much profit (if any) you are making. You want to know how much you are earning, so you spend time doing the books every day. However, no one is paying you to do your books, so you are losing out on potential revenue.
Going to the bank. It puts money into your account, but it doesn't make you any money. If you are a self-employed contractor who charges only $25/hr to do your work, you are missing out on revenue every time you go to the bank. ESPECIALLY if the bank is only open 9-4 (or some other typical bank hours). Not only that time, but there is other time involved.
You are on a job site, and you have to run to the bank. Your equipment is out because you are working. So, you can leave your equipment out and hope it is there when you get back, or you can do the smart thing and pack it up, drive to the bank, hope there isn't a line, deposit your check, drive back to the job site, unpack again, and then start from where you remember leaving off when you realized the bank was closing.
If that took you an hour to do, you just lost $1300 this year in lost productivity.
Look at All of Your Activities
Ask yourself a question of every activity you find yourself doing every day/week. Does this activity make me money, or does it prevent me from making money? If the answer is 'b', then you need to find someone who can do it for you.
Now, I will say that some of the most productive and successful business owners I have spoken with, this 'someone' is usually the spouse. I often tell people the best partner you can have in this is your spouse. You don't even have to work together, because you are doing the activities that are making you money and they are doing the activities that need to be done but don't make you a dime.
Now, when you look at all of your activities through these two prisms, you can begin to focus your energy on being successful rather than being busy. Its business, not busy-ness.
Outsource is not Always a Bad Word
When you go out to dinner, you outsource the your cooking job to a restaurant. When you purchase vegetables at the grocery store, you outsource the growing of food to the farmer. You didn't put the hamster in the wheel to get electricity for your computer (and if you did, I'm calling PETA), you outsourced that job to the electric company.
So look at the jobs you can outsource from your business, and let the experts do it better than you can. Yes it costs money. You cost money. If you are a roofer, would you prefer the homeowner outsource that job to you, or would you prefer they do it themselves?
Admit it, you want them to outsource the job to you.
Those Two Activities
So, you want to focus your energies on what makes you successful, and let other people be successful at the things you shouldn't do. Don't try being a mediocre payroll specialist, hire an expert payroll specialist. Don't try being a mediocre website designer, hire an expert website designer.
Don't try being a mediocre surgeon. See? There are definitely jobs you don't want to do alone.