If you ask multiple small business owners what drives them to become entrepreneurs, you will get multiple different answers as diverse and unique as each owner. My desire, as a woman and mother, to become a business owner was control over my schedule. Which I quickly learned sounds easier than it is but, with careful planning, proper training and sheer determination, you can find a nice balance.
The first truth and acceptance you must face is “No one is going to do it as well as you”. It doesn’t matter what life cycle your business is in, or the years of service your employees have, that is just the reality. The small business owner will always have more passion and knowledge than the employees. You have a choice to either try to do it all and burn yourself and your business out or let go of some of the control freak in you and empower your employees to represent your small business in a manner to fit your needs and your customers.
Are you looking to make Forbes top 100 in record time? Then you might need to forgo balance for a while. Are you looking for more family balance? Then you might need to forgo some profits for a while. There is no wrong or right answer to this. It is your answer. The point is, decide, set a plan, and work the plan. My plan was to be available for my three growing children so that meant more of a part-time presence at my business. I had to forgo some profits but still be successful. I was able to do this with careful attention to the bottom line.
The first step to freedom is communication and training. I started out by creating manuals for each department. Yes, this was tedious. Yes, this was boring for me. This is not in my wheelhouse, but knew it was an essential piece to freedom. These manuals had everything from what to do when the Wi-Fi goes down to how to handle a customer situation. This project took time away from other very important tasks that I needed to do. The good news is this is a one-time project. Can I get a hallelujah for that?! I put my manuals in pretty binders and the next step was training the staff. I used these manuals in training and also for staff to use as a point of reference. For a while, if I was away from the store, I would get phone calls about this, that, or the other thing. And my response was not to give them the answer but to tell them where they could find the answer. Guess what? They started answering the questions and solving problems themselves without having to call me. WOOT! WOOT! Now….I can hear you all saying “but how will I know what is going on?” Easy! Create a recap sheet, whether it is daily, weekly, bi-weekly, whatever works for your business. Have them write it down and then you can decide if more action needs to be taken.
Next step… empower your employees to make decisions and handle tasks. I know this can be hard to delegate and what I have learned is you need to be specific. I once turned over purchasing of supplies to my manager. She did an excellent job. We never ran out of things. She found things that were unique that maybe I would not have purchased but, at the same time, I noticed my Cost of Goods was on the rise. When discussing it with her, I realized my vision goggles are different than hers. While I am focused on bottom line, she is focused on making sure she is doing a good job and never caught running out of a product. So that means ordering more. I learned I can’t assume they think like I do and, let’s be real, would I want them to? I should have started out by giving her a specific budget and more parameters. With those in place, delegating can be done and should be. Studies show that one of the top five reasons employees stay is feeling appreciated and empowered. By implementing this, you are creating some time for you but also building self-esteem in your staff.
What to delegate? As a small business owner we wear so many hats and we do need to know what is going on in all areas (reminder, the recap sheet) so how do you figure out what to let go and what to hold onto tightly? Here is the suggestion taken from Marley Majcher, “But Are You Making Any Money” book. For two weeks, write down everything you do from checking emails, to paying bills, to customer sales calls, etc….Don’t miss a thing. Create a simple chart with start time, stop time and task. After two weeks of this tedious task, (it will bring back the memories of making those manuals) you can then see a real overview of where your time is spent. Now review these notes and go to the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time on what will make your company money, the other 20% is task oriented. Next figure out what tasks can be delegated, who you can afford to hire to do so, then provide necessary training and tools to get this done.
Finally, make appointments with yourself. You keep your dentist appointment. Well, why not make the most important appointment, your time, a priority. If you want Tuesday afternoons to be “me time” then schedule it and keep it, just as you would other appointments. I promise you, the business will not fall apart in one afternoon. And time away from your business will help you keep the passion, avoid the burn out, and will be good for you, your business and your employees.
Get your family involved. If this makes sense, than have your family help out with special projects, events or whatever may be. I own a Cookie and Cupcake store so, naturally, if I say, “Do you want to help out at a cupcake tasting event,” my kids are in! We have had great times as a family working at different events and it makes the family feel proud of what you do and proud of who you are.
Unplug!!!!! In today’s world of IPhones pinging, Apple Watches vibrating and constant emails being bombarded at you, it is hard to get away. What I have found by unplugging is that usually the so-called crisis, that your employee needed an answer on right that second, either got solved or can wait. So “accidentally” leave your phone, take off the Apple watch, and don’t check a single email for that time you are trying to protect. It will all be there when you return!
So I know, I know, this all sounds easier than it actually is. But with careful planning, training, goal setting and a sound budget, you can create some space from your business to do the other things in your life you are passionate about!