I was talking to one of my clients the other day, the owner of an IT business who recently lost both of his employees and is having to work crazy hours because of it. He knows he needs to replace them, but he wants to make sure he does it right.
You may be in the same boat. You may have lost employees because of the economic downturn, but now your business is ramping back up. You may have known for a while that you have too much on your plate, that you need help.
Whatever your circumstances, there comes a time in the life of all small businesses when the owner shouldn’t or can’t do it on their own anymore. That seems kind of obvious, but I’m always surprised at how many business owners I know who resist getting an assistant, hiring an employee, contracting out a service or implementing a new tool.
I think that’s because if you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to worry that you won’t do it right and that you’ll end up spending even more time cleaning up a mess or fixing shoddy work. After all, you know how everything works. If you’re in charge, you’re in control. Unfortunately, if you want your business to grow— and if you want to have a life—you’re going to have to stop doing it all on your own. You’re going to have to let some things go so you can grow.
The question is: how? Actually, there are four questions: Why should you let go? What should you let go? When should you let go? and How should you let go? Let’s walk through them one at a time.
Why Should You Let Go?
When I bring up the idea of letting go of some of the daily tasks of a business, I can get a lot of pushback. One client might tell me that they’re too busy, that they don’t have time to figure out what they should let go of—and that even if they did, they wouldn’t have time to train someone. Another client might tell me they can’t afford to hire someone. Another might tell me it didn’t work out too well the last time they tried, that it turns out they’re the only one who can do things right.
Those reactions are natural, but they’re triggered by fear and stress. If you give into them, you’ll keep working 80 hours a week, losing more of your life and compromising your business’s ability to grow.
The number one reason you should let some things go is this: so you can do the things you enjoy and get rid of the things you don’t.
Let’s be honest: There are things you do for your business that you don’t enjoy doing or that you’re not good at, things that you put off doing. Let me give you a personal example. It used to take me three months to do my taxes: two and a half months to think about how much I hated doing my taxes, plus two weeks of actually doing my taxes—and hating every minute of it. I finally gave in and hired a bookkeeper to do my taxes, and you know what? She had them done in two weeks. Not only did she have them done, but she actually enjoyed doing them. For me, sorting through receipts is like pouring lemon juice into a papercut, but for my bookkeeper, it’s like putting together a puzzle. She loves it! By hiring her, I got rid of something I hated and avoided, and I didn’t spend two and a half months agonizing over it.
Letting some things go frees your time, but it also frees your mind—when you do it correctly.
What Should You Let Go?
I’ll be honest: This is where people make the biggest mistakes. They let go of the wrong things. To make sure you choose the right things to let go, ask yourself two questions:
What do I dislike doing?
What is it that you avoid doing because it drains your energy? What is it that you’re not very good at? You should spend your time and energy doing the things you do best and that you’re most passionate about. To figure out what those things are, make a list of everything you do, and rank them on a scale of one to five, one being HATE IT! and five being LOVE IT!
What tasks shouldn’t I be doing?
If you’re spending time doing your tasks or managing your calendar, you’re not spending it bringing in business or creating raving fans. As much as possible, your focus should be on tasks that are profitable for your business. That will change throughout the life cycle of your business: Early on, you may find that what you need to get off your plate are administrative tasks; as your business grows, you may find that you should hire someone to concentrate on bringing in business so you can concentrate on serving clients, or vice versa.
As far as administrative tasks go, there are a lot of places you can start to free yourself up from those; some involve people, either employees or contractors, and some involve implementing systems. You can hire outside help like a bookkeeper. You can invest in a CRM (customer relationship management) system to get your database in order so you can more easily communicate with prospects and customers. You can use a software like Calendly to make scheduling easier.
But I want you to strongly consider starting by hiring an assistant. Let me rephase that: Please, please hire an assistant! If you don’t already have a great assistant, you don’t know what you’re missing. Yes, it costs money. Yes, it requires you to train and manage someone. But having someone who can take care of that CRM system and run your Calendly, who can follow up with clients and make sure your receipts are all in one place so they can be handed over to the bookkeeper—that will go a long way to freeing you up to focus on what brings in the money.
Whichever tasks you decide to let go of and however you decide to do that—by engaging people or systems—be intentional about it so that you make the highest impact on your bottom line and on your time and energy.
When Should You Let Go?
Right now! I tell you, I wish I had hired that bookkeeper years before. I wish I had found my amazing assistant sooner than I did.
If you want to be less stressed out, if you want to build the business you’ve always dreamed of building, you need to start today. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive: Calendly is free. So are some basic CRM systems.
You have to actually use them to see the benefit, though. Challenge yourself to commit to doing two things in the next week to permanently get something off your plate, whether that’s searching for an outside resource or trying out a software system.
How Should You Let Go?
After you’ve decided what tasks you need to get off your plate, and you’ve committed to doing it, you have to decide how you will actually accomplish that.
Your how depends on a couple of variables, including cash flow and your personality and management style. For instance, if you’ve decided that what you want to let go of requires another person, you can hire someone, you can use an individual contractor, you can engage another firm or you can try out a virtual assistant or employee. Which of those you choose depends on how much money you can spend, how much oversight you want to provide and even how much of a particular kind of work you have.
Your how also depends on exactly what you need, and you’ll probably end up with different solutions for different needs. For instance, I directly hired my assistant, but I use a freelance writer and editor to produce a lot of my content, and I contract my bookkeeping out to a small firm.
Keep in mind that as your business grows, what you need to let go and how you let it go will change. Right now, my assistant works part time, but I can see a future where I will need her full time. Right now I use fairly simple systems for my schedule and CRM, but I may need to upgrade as my business grows. Right now I do most of my bringing in business tasks myself, but my goal is to have so much great client work to do that I need a team to handle my marketing and selling for me.
Make sure that you take time on a regular basis to reevaluate how well things are working for you. Be ready to adapt to the changing circumstances of your business and your life.
Also, whenever you work with people, be sure to provide the support they need to succeed. Provide clear instructions, written and verbal. Follow up; answer questions; provide guidance. When they succeed, you do too, so be sure to block time in to support them in their success.
A Few Last Words
Most of us went into business to provide something we’re passionate about to others, whether that’s a product or a service. We have something we want to share, a positive impact we want to have on others’ lives. We also hope to build something that will outlast us, a business we can pass on to another generation.
Letting things go enables a business to grow. It enables a business to have a bigger impact on people’s lives. It also enables you to pass on your knowledge to the people you might one day pass the torch of your business to. It ensures that you are developing the next leaders of your business, leaders who will embrace your company’s mission and culture and keep your business going and growing far into the future.
If you need or want assistance talking through what you need to let go of so you can grow, please reach out to us.