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11 Tips for Working on Your Business (not in it)

What does this actually mean?  As an entrepreneur, when you’re starting out, you can be the person of all trades – performing every position in the company.  While you’re building a foundation, this makes sense.

There are limits to what one person can do and there will come a time when you (or someone else) will ask, “Who is running the business.” Will it be you?

You are the most passionate believer in your business and have a vision for the company, so here are some tips to help you get out of the weeds and start working on your business.

Get past yourself.

Decide to take a more strategic approach to developing your business, instead of getting bogged down in the micro-management of the day-to-day. You may need to move out of your comfort zone, learn new stuff, and unlearn old habits. This might include leadership training or higher-level financial literacy.  Getting past yourself also means accepting that you are not always right and that your employees will not be clones of you (if they were, they would be your competitors!)

Make time in your schedule, every week, to think.

Most of the time small business owners are running so fast, they don’t take time to think. You can’t gain objectivity in the middle of the scrum. Put thinking time in your calendar. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted. Think about what’s working and what’s not. Think about changes in your industry and what they mean to your business. Ask your colleagues for input and perspectives that aren’t your own and look for trends and record all of your ideas and observations.  If you have a knotty issue that needs unravelling, schedule time to think about that issue and how to problem- solve it.

Manage your time and attention.

We are living in a time of distractions with social media, email, SLACK, and phones – just to name a few.  It’s very easy to find yourself taking just a couple of minutes to review something and going down a rabbit hole, which can also create stress.  Lately, you may be dealing with new stressors while working from home and managing increased pressure on work-life balance.

Too often we get dragged into other people’s urgency, or we waste time on unimportant, but irritating loose ends. There are a variety of ways to ensure your attention is focused where it should be. You might use the Urgent vs Important time management matrix to discipline yourself into Q1 and Q2 activities, or consider this approach to “designing time.” Whatever method works for you, get a handle on how you spend your time and attention.

Here are some interesting facts about Time Management: 20+ Little-Known Time Management Statistics for 202

Ask yourself this pivotal question:

“What is the ONE Thing I can do in my business that, once accomplished, would make everything else easier or unnecessary?” Then focus most of your energy on making that one thing a reality.  It may take some time and deliberate thought (see above) to drill through the layers and arrive at the one fundamental reality that has the greatest impact on your business. Once you identify it, the knowledge can transform your business.

Work to your strengths, hire to your weaknesses. 

Take a good, honest look at yourself and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Understand this—when you do things you hate or are not good at, it takes much more energy, creates much more stress, and leads to many more mistakes. Focus on what you’re good at and hire exceptional people to complement your skill set.

Depending on how quickly your business is growing, you might choose to use a recruiter (industry specific with strong references) or develop and refine your own hiring process (if you are hiring frequently). Add some technology to help in your application screening and management process. Once candidates are identified, use structured interviews that include critical incident and behavioral questions. Add skills tests, homework, and (as appropriate) psychometric and other assessment tools (MBTI, PLUM, EQ, IDISC, etc.) to your process. The most important thing to remember is this: whatever it takes, you need to get good at hiring the right people so you can comfortably stop doing everything yourself.

Be a jet not a helicopter. Set the course and delegate. 

You’ve probably heard the term “helicopter parent.” Many entrepreneurs think of their company as their “baby.” This can lead to the business equivalent of over-parenting, i.e., micro-managing.  You can’t develop exceptional employees if you breathe down their necks, re-do their work and prevent them from going out on the occasional limb. More importantly, if you hire great people and then hover over their every move, they will leave, and you’ll be back to wearing all the hats again.  Motivate them by being a more effective leader.

Get what’s in your head out where employees can find it. 

Document how you do what you do for everything you do successfully in your business. If you identify regular activities that are not up to par, examine the way things are done now and figure out how to make them better (include employees in the conversation – they often have a better handle on front-line business activities than you do!). Make sure to document the improved approach. One step at a time, create processes and systems for all regular business activities. Reinforce and communicate about processes until they become second nature to everyone. Encourage feedback aimed at improving the way things are done and foster the habit of continuous improvement.

Identify tasks and routines that can be effectively outsourced and partner to meet those needs. 

Often the biggest mental overhead for startups and SMEs is managing an increasing number of people. Outsourcing is one option for taking operational tasks off your plate without the complications of additional staff. Effective outsourced solutions exist for most common business operations.  These can include everything from bookkeeping to Human Resources.

Examine and test your assumptions. 

Is there anything you are doing in your business that could be eliminated without any negative repercussions? Are any of your processes based on faulty assumptions, out-dated habits or personal preference (i.e. ego) and not on their value to the company or its customers? When in doubt, validate by asking for feedback or by making a change and observing results.

Put a value on your time.

Think about how much your work contributes to the company and arrive at an hourly figure that represents what you are worth to the company during your working hours. When you find yourself doing work with a value considerably lower than this figure – delegate. Spend your high-value time on high-value activities.

Always be learning.

Everything is changing so quickly and there is so much to learn and know. Use travel time (and other times when your hands or body are busy, but your brain is not) to read books or listen to audio books, watch TED Talks listen to podcasts, etc. that will help you grow as an entrepreneur and leader.  You can read more here: Why Good Leaders never Stop Learning and  Why Great Leaders Need to be Lifelong Learners

Written by Anne Toner Fung and Linda Horowitz

Based on Gary Keller’s pivotal question posed in his book “The 1 Thing” http://www.the1thing.com/

Original Article on Innovation Guelph

Innovation Guelph
Innovation Guelph provides mentorship, programs and services to help innovative businesses start, grow and thrive. Serving Guelph, Wellington County and Southwestern Ontario, our novel business acceleration programs – including Speedway, Fast Lane, Fuel Injection and the Rhyze Project – support high-potential businesses from start-up to scale-up. Innovation Guelph also serves as a single point of access to Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) resources. We empower entrepreneurs, build community partnerships, and foster initiatives to build an innovation ecosystem that drives lasting economic growth, supports environmental sustainability and enhances the quality of life for everyone in our region.

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