It’s not that answering the phone is wrong and creating a company outline is right. I mean, if you don’t answer the phone you can’t get new business. And it’s not that sales and marketing is the right work and customer service is the wrong work. It all impacts your bottom line.
But when it comes to leadership, when it comes to the owner of the business, it’s about consistently doing what needs to be done for the long term health of the company. It’s about starting that work — today.
But, what are you spending your time doing?
Are you answering the phone all day, when a smart and friendly receptionist could do it better? Are you waiting the tables when an attentive waitress could have greater impact?
I’ve seen small business owners with creative and effective solutions doing the wrong job and running potential clients away. And I bet you have too:
- What about the distracted owner at the front desk who tries to do so many things, too many things at once, and they end up leaving potential clients on the phone a little too long?
- Or the hoverer, the owner who lingers. When they’re around, you can’t shop in peace or get a little privacy at the restaurant table. They are in the middle of your entire conversation and you find yourself going their less and less?
Don’t get me wrong, you need to come face to face with your clients so that you can understand what they really need and want from you. But then you have to make room for the rest of it.
The owner holds the business in their heart.
They identify and develop the big picture strategy. They attract and lead the team. They give a deeper meaning to the daily grind and details of the business. It’s the work that can’t be handed off without loosing some of the essence of the company and that’s what makes it the right work for the small business owner.
To be effective for the long haul, you have to make room for the strategy work. There has to be time to be still and think some things through. Time to rework the way you do what you do. Time to retest the status quo and make changes when necessary.
The right work for the leader is the strategy work.
And when you consistently do strategy work – it’s easier for innovation to become an ongoing part of your business.
Annoyed Photo via Shutterstock
Some owners just have a knack for doing things themselves and not delegating it to their employees. It’s actually a good thing as long as they set their priorities right (or they just have some free time). But when bigger fishes need frying, the leader should be able to trust his team to handle the smaller ones.
That “knack for doing things” can get us in trouble (bogged down — and then we stop making progress in the right direction). Sometimes I think the “one trick pony” has a better time at it because they know they need a team from jump.
Excellent post, Jamillah. Doing the right thing is far different from just doing what’s in front of you. I think about that every single day. It means asking yourself over and over – Is this the most important, best use of my time. It means figuring out, as you say, what is the most important thing. Spending time in strategy makes it possible.
TJ, I like your daily question — such an easy way to keep the most important things on your plate.
I think a great strategy is that all business owners need to be working on their business at least 1 hour per day.
When you get into that routine, and stick to it, it allows you to make the subtle tweaks over the long run that make the biggest difference in the top and bottom line!
You don’t want to be busy, just to be busy.
I am taking your advice. We have restructured the company. Now we have dedicated staff for the phones, customer support, and other tedious tasks. My partner is networking and bringing in new projects. My job is now handling most of the coding and engineering staff. I really needed to take a lead job and stop trying to do everything myself. Thank you
That’s a big step — Congratulations
Excellent article. But it’s easier said than done. If we could all just be strategic in our daily duties, our companies would be better off. However, that “fog of business” can creep up and take us off track. Good post, thanks.
You’re right “it is easier said than done” – but I’m a big believer in the baby steps method – step into change with small and consistent actions and you’ll get there. We can out pace that fog. Thanks Kip.
Great post. I think for a lot of small business owners it can be really difficult to let go of the reins and hand control over for even the smallest things. Also, many don’t like to admit they’re stretched!
As a business owner it is easy to relate to this. I am constantly trying to find new things to delegate to my staff to free up my time, however it can be tricky at times, and I am still trying to work out how to not get bogged down with all the emails I receive and delegate that task. But great advice all round!
One thing which I have used to keep myself on track is the 4 point day. 1 point = outreach to a potential customer. 2 = discussion with potential customer/representative. 3 = meeting with or proposal to decision maker. 4 = contract
After all, profitable revenues are what drive any business. Everything else supports that.
So true Jamillah!! I work for a tech company that helps small businesses maximise their resources. So appointment booking, rebooking, reminding, confirming, etc can be automated with software instead of done by the owner as is often the case. When owners actually start to focus on growing their business they realize how inefficient it is to get bogged down with administrative tasks. They have the passion to move things forward and that can’t be delegated!
I think the most important thing the small business can do is systemise following Michael Gerber’s approach so that then s/he can concentrate on the big picture tasks. Before you can delegate you need to systemise. What puts small business owners off systemisation is the time it takes. So they don’t do it and spend their time doing stuff that could be better done by a member of their team.
I completely agree that business owners need to be focused on strategy and would add that corporate sustainability should be part of the overall strategy of any business. I direct facility management at Extra Space Storage, which is like running all the facilities for 900 individual businesses. Taking advantage of where environmental measures make good business sense has been part of our strategy at Extra Space Storage and it’s make a substantial difference to our bottom line.