04 Oct How to stop firefighting and start driving your business forward
So you run a small business, and ultimately, you want to grow it. But you’re so busy firefighting – ‘fixing’ problems or suppressing their symptoms, rather than understanding and addressing the factors that cause them – that you simply don’t have time to stop, plan and grow.
The trouble is, as a business evolves organically and owners begin to take on more staff, they tend to find themselves being pulled in different directions and assuming multiple roles – staff manager, client account manager, technician, HR adviser, bookkeeper, payroll clerk, the list goes on – when actually they should be evolving themselves, in line with the business, into an MD role.
If this sounds like you, then you’re not alone. If the printer breaks, you naturally step in and roll your sleeves up because you like to be seen as a team player. When a member of staff has a problem, your door is always open because you want to show you’re supportive and understanding. But how can you break the cycle and transform your working week so that you can service clients effectively, keep staff happy, and also set time aside to drive your business forward?
The first thing is to ask yourself: how much time do I spend IN my business versus ON my business? Being a hands-on boss is great, but you need to set boundaries, limit the time you spend on each role, and delegate. Here are three steps you can follow to make your time as efficient as possible.
1. Allocate a “business” day each week
I’ll let you into a secret. Even at Organised You (where we are very, ahem, organised!), I have to really push myself to take time out of working for clients to focus on business development, from social media to analysing monthly figures etc. You may be lucky enough to experience unintentional growth for a period of time – for example while the economic environment is favourable, or you find there is a lack of competition – but these things can change overnight, so focussing on business development is crucial in the long term. As Organised You has evolved and we’ve been able to optimise our staff to client ratio, I’ve been able to set aside a day of the week where I consciously restrict my client work and instead focus on the things that need to be maintained in order to evolve further.
If finding time seems impossible, then start with just one morning per week until you’re confident you’ve achieved Steps 2 and 3 below. Invest in a weekly planner and add your session in each week to make sure you stick to it. One week it could be a “marketing session” and the next it might be a “business development session” – just as long as you focus on the business and nothing else.
2. Draft a business plan
If you’re not sure how to implement a growth strategy, it might be a good idea to draft a simple business plan, if you haven’t done so already, to get you thinking about the things you want/need to do in order to grow your business – see our recent blog post for guidance. Refer back to your plan once a week as part of your dedicated session and don’t be afraid to update it as necessary.
3. Delegate and empower
How many times have you heard your team take messages for you – for instance from clients or suppliers – because they feel you are the only person in the business qualified to help them, adding to the pressure you already feel to get everything done? Why does this happen? Is it because you really are the only one qualified to help, or is it because you have allowed the status quo to continue from the outset, where legacy clients or other business contacts still expect you to be available whenever they need you, rather than explaining that your staff are here to help drive their account forward and keep everything running smoothly?
If your staff are competent enough to handle customer queries with minimal support, then it’s time to stop micromanaging, and entrust them to manage accounts and projects professionally and autonomously. Holding dedicated client meetings where you can still be on-hand to answer questions, while allowing account managers to handle the day-to-running of the business, will empower and motivate staff to do a much better job in the long term and free you up to drive your business forward in other areas.
If your teams are becoming overburdened with any of the tasks you’re delegating, you can always outsource them to an admin support company like Organised You, either ad hoc or on a more regular basis to suit your changing needs.
It’s a juggling act for sure, but if you’re concerned about how much time you spend IN vs ON your business, then following the steps above could help you restore the balance, and enable you to drive the business forward in the ways you want while keeping both staff and clients on-side.