Most entrepreneurs look at their business the wrong way. They slave away for long hours, doing everything in their power to make every detail of the business run just right.
But, slaving away is not probably not why you started your company—nor is it how a company should be run. Rather than working for your business, your business should work for you. In fact, it should be capable of running without you. Not because you’re not needed—but so that you can spend your time growing the business instead of being ensnared in all the little details.
So, how do you create a business that works for you? The answer is to employ planning and systems.
Start With a Plan
The first step is to start with a vision of what you’d like your business to ultimately achieve. Specifically, answer key questions such as:
Answering these questions forces you to think about your long-term goal, and it allows you to create an actionable plan that helps you get there.
Once you have this goal in place (which is often years in the future), you need to figure out your one-year plan—what you must accomplish this year in order to make progress. For example, think about what new products or services you must develop in the next year. What new hires must you make? How many new customers must you acquire?
One of my clients came to me eight years ago as a small business process outsourcing firm with revenues of just over $100,000. We did this exact exercise to determine where he wanted the business to be in 10 years and what he had to do in the coming year to start making progress. Today, his firm is generating $150 million in annual revenues and has over 2,000 employees. Yes, this really works!
One of the most important things you’ll need to do this year, and every year, is to create systems. While most people think of “systems” as sophisticated processes that typically require software, they’re actually just procedures or processes for completing a task, documented so that the task can be done methodically.
For example—think about how your company should handle inbound phone calls. You probably know how you’d like each call to be answered, but a documented system in place could address:
Once you have an established systems for a processes in your business, it can be completed without you. All of your employees will know exactly what to do, and training new employees will be a piece of cake compared to explaining everything every time.
Start by identifying the systems you must build first. To do this, think about where your company has the most problems, where mistakes are most often made, or where you find that you’re spending a lot of your time. Systems will help solve these reoccurring problems, and thus, free up your time.
Over time, you should build a system for any process that occurs in your business that is performed frequently and that, if completed in a predictable, consistent manner, would increase the value and profits of your business.
Set Aside Planning Time
The big “chicken and egg” challenge here is that it takes time to plan and to build systems, time which most business owners are currently spending maintaining their business’ daily operations. The solution is simply to force yourself to set aside 15 minutes every day to step back and document your systems. By the end of just one month, you’ll see your business running more smoothly. It will start to work for you. And that’s the way it should be.
Yogi Berra once said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably not going to get there.” This is extremely true, particularly for your business. So, figure out where you’d like your business to go and create your plan to get there. Along the way, build more and more systems, which will allow you to spend your time growing the business while your employees expertly handle the day-to-day operations.
Photo of people working courtesy of Shutterstock.
Dave Lavinsky is a serial entrepreneur. He has run companies ranging from consumer products to professional services to websites. Since 1999, Dave has run Growthink, a consulting and information products firm that helps entrepreneurs and business owners to start, grow and sell their businesses, with a focus on business planning and capital raising. Dave lives in New York with his wife and two kids.More from this Author