Cofounder Easier Accounting & Real Business Owners. 20+ years of experience growing & running multiple businesses. Author & public speaker.
For most business owners, the saying “one step forward, two steps back” sounds miserable, but in many cases, taking a step backward can propel you forward and actually change your life for the better.
As an entrepreneur, you have responsibilities outside work. These might include providing for your family’s needs, teaching your children values and growing your relationships. It’s a lot to manage, especially when you’re bogged down fixing issues in your business or exhausted from overwork.
If your business demands so much time that it becomes the obstacle that keeps you from doing the things you’ve always said you wanted to do, it can leave you feeling defeated and depleted, no matter how “successful” you are.
Business owners who feel stuck in their business must first create systems. These systems not only benefit you and your family. They benefit the people in your business and can fuel the growth of your business like wildfire when implemented properly.
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My company recently walked a client through this process. I hope following this process will be transformative for your business and life, as well.
The client and his family lived a life that from the outside would seem normal. They would take a vacation once per year and go out to dinner once or twice per week. They would spend as much time together as they could, but something was missing, causing him and his family to suffer because of it.
As a business owner, you can likely relate to this story. Things are going well enough — but not great. It’s not what you envisioned your life looking or feeling like.
Our client was a reliable and diligent business owner. He showed up when he said he would. His attention to quality fed his business so he got most of his business through word of mouth. In fact, he would have to turn business away because he was too busy. So, where’s the problem?
The problem was that he was the business. He had a couple helpers working for him, but it was just one small crew. If he couldn’t schedule something on his personal calendar, it couldn’t get done.
He came to us looking to outsource his accounting. It was his first step to buy time back.
Over a few calls, he opened up about how much he hated his current business situation, so I asked him, “Why don’t you do what you did with your accounting and unload more of the workload and responsibilities in other parts of your business?”
The first step is always the hardest, because oftentimes, it’s a step back. Most business owners know that if they can start delegating in more areas of their business, they will be able to do what they want. They can live a life of financial freedom and time freedom. They can create more memories with their family and take back control of their life.
After some review, I explained to our client that he would easily qualify for equipment financing with little upfront capital. This would mean he could hire another crew, doubling his ability to serve his customers.
The key to duplicating yourself is duplicating the systems and processes that allow for quality of work to remain high. For most, this is the biggest step back. You see margins drop and your time expenditure temporarily increases. It is predictably more chaotic and uncomfortable.
On the other side of that hard work, though, is a fully operating replica of your workmanship without you doing the work. For people like the client above, this means not having to turn down jobs or work overtime. You can then duplicate your craftsmanship as needed to service growing business inquiries.
To do so, there are a couple of steps you can take in your business to help ensure it stays healthy as you grow. First is ensuring you have a personal runway: Lower margins will mean less available money for you as the owner. Be ready for this with your own finances by not making any large personal purchases that will overextend you before scaling. This should be obvious but can get you into trouble if you’re expecting to be able to pay yourself more in the beginning of the scaling process.
If you’re financing equipment and hiring more crews, your monthly expenses will increase drastically. Be prepared for this by ensuring you have a full pipeline. Make sure you allocate some of your budget to ramp up your marketing, and pay attention to the number of projects you earn from word-of-mouth referrals so you can estimate how many leads you’ll get per project your first team accomplishes.
Also, ensuring you have a lead generation system in place that you can dial up or dial back is key. Not just relying on word of mouth but having an avenue of getting leads through paid ads and understanding how much those leads generally cost and how many convert to customers will also allow you to have more security in scaling. It will feel less risky and you’ll have a feeling of investing your money into your future instead of risking the future of your company trying to build it bigger.
Eventually, you will be able to fully step back and own the business instead of being owned by the business. But how?
Create leaders from within your organization. Train them to take ownership of their work by incentivizing with bonuses tied to profit earned and created. Create bullet-proof standard operating procedures that allow high-quality work to be replicated on every job. Invest in your team members’ success so they’ll invest in yours.
What happened with our client? Within 18 months, he has four crews and only has to work 20 hours a week doing the creative stuff he prefers. The best part? It’s attainable for you, too, if you are willing to take the leap of stepping back to skyrocket your business growth.