Posted: Fri 8th Jul 2022
As a Business Sounding Board, this is one of the most common questions/problems I get asked about.
It’s the same issue whether you are a start-up, have been going a few years or a large, successful SME.
In my opinion, the route to the solution is the same, irrelevant of the business size. It’s a route that will ask lots of questions and, probably, open a Pandora’s Box of issues.
But bear with me, it may be a complicated road, but it does lead to clarity and a solution to your problem.
The first place to look for the solution is in the mirror; at you, the MD, CEO, owner, and founder.
Ask yourself ‘am I doing the right things?’. This question will inevitably be followed by 'but what are the ‘right’ things?’. And here begins the problem, but also the solution to the initial problem of ‘I’m too busy to grow the business.
The problem you face in asking what are the ‘right’ things that I should be doing, goes all the way back to a more basic question. Ask yourself ‘what, as a business, are we aiming to do?’ and off the back of that ‘what is my role within that?’.
It may be that your business this year is targeting sales growth, increased profitability, or an improved profit margin. It may be the sale of the business or a competitor acquisition.
Whatever your target for this year, your role must be clear in what you, as the head of the business, should be doing to deliver that target. The simplest way to do that? Ensure that you have a ‘roles & responsibilities’ document; exactly the same as all of your team have.
Why do you give them a roles & responsibilities document? To ensure that they are doing the right things, and to the right level of competence. And so should you.
In many SME clients that I work with, the founder/owner doesn’t have a clearly defined role. You start the business and as it grows you ‘slice’ roles off as you employ people.
What tends to happen is that you continue with roles that either haven’t been ‘sliced off’ yet (that you shouldn’t be doing) or you’re holding onto tasks that you like doing but, again, shouldn’t be doing. And this is where the ‘i’m too busy’ kicks in.
You’re simply doing so much stuff that you shouldn’t be doing, that it’s stopping you from doing the stuff, as the business leader, you really should be doing.
So, what’s the solution? Here are three simple steps, amongst many others, that can get you focused on doing the right things to grow your business.
1) Write yourself a roles & responsibilities document
Ask yourself ‘what is the purpose of my role and why am I in the business?’.
The answer should be one sentence only. Then identify three, or a maximum of four, areas of responsibility. Ask the question ‘what are the key areas I’m responsible for?’.
List them, with maybe one line of explanation. That’s it. It’s not easy and you may need some time to really focus and think to ensure it's accurate and clear.
As an example, when I ran my business, my purpose was:
‘To be responsible for the direction, growth, stability and operation of the whole business.'
My areas of responsibility were:
Formulating the company’s long-term strategy
Ensuring adequate resources to deliver overall financial control
Managing, motivating and developing the senior management team
Once you have these in place you can y see what the ‘right’ things are.
Have a read of this article that explains this in more detail.
2) Delegate, delegate and delegate
Write down every single task you have on your to-do list. Then put them all in priority order, using whatever system you prefer (I use my own personal bastardised version of Covey’s ‘urgent v important’ – read more about it here and feel free to copy it for yourself).
Now start at the bottom of the list (the least important tasks) and work your way up, one by one and identify who in the team you can delegate that task to.
The aim is to delegate EVERYTHING. Whilst you may not succeed in that, what you will find is that you now have a much shorter to-do list…as well as one that is focused purely on the important things you need to be doing.
If you’ve created your roles & responsibilities document, you can further get rid of the tasks that are simply not your responsibility.
3) Opportunity Cost
Look at some of the tasks you are doing. With all due respect to admin people, bookkeepers, junior staff and whatnot, would you pay them your salary to do their jobs?
No, you wouldn’t, so you actually save money by employing specialists to do the jobs you shouldn’t be doing that you’re currently doing, which then allows you to do the important tasks.
Initially, you might see this as an added cost, but when you then consider the value that you can add to the business by not doing those tasks but doing the tasks that add more value, you will see it as an investment.
In summary, write yourself a roles & responsibilities document, delegate as much as possible and consider your opportunity cost. Go on, give it a go.
Try all of the above and you should have the time to drive the business forward, achieve growth, and deliver that growth you long for.
Let me know how you get on, or if you have any other suggestions.