When you’re working away on a business in startup mode, there are a lot of messages floating around you about passion and hard work and sleepless nights. That is, often, simply expected. As a founding business owner, you might wear all the hats and do all the things. You might not have a choice - and this might be just how you wanted it to play out.
It’s how many people start their businesses - and it’s not wrong. But it’s not sustainable, and it’s not a business.
It’s a JOB, just without the security, minimum wages, and human rights protections.
It may very well be a job you love - but it’s a job.
The goal when you have that kind of a business/job, is to work yourself out of it. Sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we think that’s how our businesses are supposed to run, because that’s how we’ve been running them.
But a business that has powerful value, a business that is so much more than a job you’re underpaying yourself to do, is one that operates well… even if you’re not there.
Even if you came up with the original idea.
Even if you designed all the systems and processes.
Even if it’s what you love to do.
Your business, your customers, and your staff deserve a business they can rely on. A business that operates consistently, and is therefore able to keep its promises. A business that is as loyal to them as you want them to be to you.
If it collapses when you are not there, those people, the ones you serve, will have to walk away.
Creating a Resilient Company
You want to keep your promises to the folks who believe in you, and that means that you need to take a hard look at how deeply you are embedded in your business - and what you need to do to replace yourself. There are a lot of things to cover and, if you’re a regular Admin Slayer reader, you know that we’re big fans of the Hudson’s Bay Start.
A Hudson’s Bay start is a test run, before the full roll out - and they’re worth slowing down for. Running tests that don’t cost the earth in time or money (but do cost a little) is one of the best ways to determine if what you’re hypothesizing will work in real life. It helps you find the gaps in your theory early in the game, while they’re still small and easy to fix.
Your first test:
Take a vacation. A real one. The one where you don’t take any calls or check any email or monitor your systems. That vacation your spouse/kids/family/friends wish you would take because honestly, it’s like you don’t have a life anymore.
That’s fair. Get ready for it by reviewing your procedure manuals (if you don’t have these… get procedure manuals written), and talking to your team. What balls do they think would crash on the floor if you weren’t there? What questions are they asking you on a daily basis that get repeatable answers?
Create handbooks, training time, and teach different members of your team to carry out the parts of your operation that they would be good at. Don’t look for a unicorn, who can do everything that you can do. Those people are out there, sure, but they’re already running their own businesses. Look for people who want to work in yours.
If you’re thinking: Yes, I’ll definitely get on that. But not right now. There’s this thing, and that thing, but definitely when those things, and this other thing over here, are dealt with… then we have a shocker for you:
There will be a day when you cannot show up. There will be something you didn’t prepare for. Hopefully, it’s something small and no one was hurt. But business owners who run themselves ragged are more likely than others to experience significant health concerns. If you take too long to figure out how to stop, your body is going to make you stop.
If you can’t imagine planning for a “real” holiday, instead we recommend you start planning for a disability. Our sister company, Spring Plans, wrote this very thorough article on how to plan for just that. Read it here.
Creating a Saleable Company
Have you ever entertained dreams of one day selling your extremely valuable company? That’s probably when you’ll take that well-deserved vacation that you’ve been putting off, right?
Put yourself in your potential buyer’s shoes. If you were in the market to buy a company, what would you look for?
Would you look for a business with an owner who works unreasonable hours and pays themselves very little? A business that can’t run without one specific person who holds all the knowledge and has all the answers?
Of course not. You’d want a well-organized business. One with an empowered team, really great systems, an easily-accessible past, a thoughtful plan for the future, and dynamic, written processes for every aspect of the work that business does.
If you have built your business around yourself, a business that is tricky to extricate yourself from, then it’s going to be equally tricky to convince anyone that it has value when you are not there. If your company carries your name and the expectation that you will be in the room when important meetings happen, how easy would it be for a potential buyer to slide into your shoes?
Creating a valuable company worth buying means building a business that can operate - and operate extremely well - without your constant, direct involvement.
Purpose, People, and Process
Go ahead, throw planet and profit in there. We’re with you.
Your business is worth a lot, even if right now it relies heavily on you. You created it, and you sacrificed for it. Now you’re ready to move to the next level, creating deeper value - for your customers, your team, your future buyer(s)...and yourself.
Here’s what we recommend:
Get really clear on your company’s reason for being. Having a clear purpose will make it much easier for others on your team to buy into changes. It will also shift the focus from the company being about YOU to being about the collective purpose.
Work on becoming the leader you need to be in order to effectively empower your team, manage conflicts, and use the results to innovate and grow. Develop your leadership presence and the traits that will take your business into its next iteration.
Focus on growing, developing, and supporting the people who can step in for you. If you think about and work for them to get ahead, guess what? They do the same for you, and your business.
Obsessively document the inner workings of running your business, the production of products and service, and everything else that makes your business so much more than just an idea. Not a writer? See recommendation 3 - and read more here.
You can do four things - even if those four things are Really Big Things. You’ve made it this far, throwing caution to the wind, and building the business you live and breathe today. Once you’ve got recommendations one through four dialed, there’s just one more thing to do: Make Delegation Your Goal.
You’ll be so glad you did.