December is a time of goal setting for the coming year. This is especially true for small business owners for whom the old adage “Plan your work and work your plan” holds special meaning.
But what goals should you aspire to achieve in 2013? Higher revenues? Lower costs? Landing that one Big Fish account that’s been eluding you? Allow me to suggest that you shoot for a much higher goal. Make 2013 the year that you truly begin to manage your business and stop letting it run your life.
Many non-entrepreneurs are under the misconception that small business owners “have it made” and so aspire to someday also be captain of their own ship, setting their own hours and pay scale, sticking it to The Man. Sadly for many first-time business owners, their actual experience differs greatly from those rosy expectations.
They often find themselves working much longer hours for significantly less pay, taking enormous risks and dealing with myriad personnel and logistics issues they never even knew existed.
Following the behavior of the technician described in Michael Gerber’s seminal book on entrepreneurship, The E Myth, they put their nose to the grindstone and keep it there seven days a week year-round, with their hand on every detail of their business in the belief that hard work (the one variable they control) will deliver them from all their troubles.
Allow me to suggest that you instead adopt what I call The Successful Entrepreneurial Lifestyle, one that allows you to step back from the fray and actually enjoy your life a little bit. It is possible. I have seen it done. Here’s how you can start in 2013:
1. Read The E Myth. Gerber clearly lays out the various roles of a business owner and demonstrates that true success from working on your business, not in your business.
2. Hire smart, capable people, give them clear job descriptions and all the decision-making authority and resources they need to succeed and then get the heck out of their way. Never be threatened by an employee who is smarter or better at a given task than yourself.
3. Clearly define success in terms of sales per day, sales per employee, percentage of returns, etc. Create methods for automatically gathering this data (through a Point of Sale system or similar) and make sure that the reports are distributed to everyone on a regular basis. Then reward achievement and disassociate from under-performance evenhandedly.
4. Step back and see what happens. Take an entire day off from work and compare the measurables with what happens on an average day when you are present. Did the world come to an end? No? Next week take two days off. Lather rinse and repeat until your presence on premises is optional.
I know all of this is much easier said than done but it is possible and it all starts with a change in your mindset, which is the purpose of this column: to help you understand and embrace The Successful Entrepreneurial Lifestyle.
Each month I will be sharing new ideas and success stories of real entrepreneurs who started from scratch and built businesses that provide them with a strong income stream, great work-life balance and significant freedom of action. We’ll talk about marketing, digital technologies, emerging growth industries, time-saving tools and tips, hiring and retaining great people, educational resources and more.
I look forward to joining you on your entrepreneurial journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or suggestions for future columns.