Some say that busy is the new stupid and still many people in most industries are extremely busy and stressed out. The busiest ones are usually entrepreneurs. This is surprising as the driving forces behind people becoming entrepreneurs suggest something different. These are the 5 most common answers when entrepreneurs where asked why they set out to found a company of their own:
- Their creativity doesn’t fit the corporate environment.
- They want a lifestyle that isn’t bound to nine to five
- They’re passionate about learning new things
- Their ideas are too unconventional for jobs that currently exist
- They want to change the world
These can all be boiled down into different versions of the same word. Freedom. Entrepreneurs are driven by Freedom to be creative, freedom to chose when they do something and freedom to select what they do
There is a massive paradox though!
When asked, most entrepreneurs are working 10 hour days and they are super busy all the time. You can easily put this to the test: Call any entrepreneur you know. Most likely you will get an answering machine, or a hasty “anything urgent?, can I call you back later”. This is not what a free person sounds like.
So where are things going wrong?
Many of the issues are brought up in Michael Gerber E-myth books which we can highly recommend. Gerber explains the 3 alter egos that can be identified in each company founder and how these are naturally in conflict. The personalities are: “The entrepreneur”, “the manager” and “the technician”.
A short explanation is that the entrepreneur sets out to do things and wants to be free, the manager takes care of all the admin that just has to be done, while the technician makes the products or services that the business sets out to do.
A lawyer practises law, a tailor makes suits and so on. Whereas a person who was previously employed into a 9 to 5 job as a tailor now does works as a tailor between 9 and 5. After the suit is ready they take on the managers work filing all the required records, look for new clients, hire more people and whatever the administration thing may be at the time.
Finally and maybe, just maybe and if there is enough time, the founder can continue to dream about the vision of how suits should be made in the future. There is an old saying that is good to keep in mind and it goes like this:
“the most important work that needs to be done is never urgent”
The possible way out?
There is no quick fix because urgent things can not be dropped. Instead, you need to begin a gradual shift. Before going into the practicalities the first and most important thing that entrepreneurs and all people in management positions need to do is to realise the difference between working IN the business reactively and ON the business proactively.
Knowing the difference is a huge step forward. In other words, you need to start knowing when you are giving away your time and when you are investing your time. Your time is the only thing you cant get more of regardless of what you do. Everything else practically scales all the way to infinity. Here are a few things that go in investing your time category.
1. Start by thinking process and systems (not people at this point)
Bad businesses have bad people and no systems and good businesses have bad systems that are run by superior people. The best businesses have superior systems that are run by good and sometimes even mediocre people. The best businesses are therefore not dependent on a single person doing a certain job and this is what makes them the best.
This is also what you need to aim for if you want freedom. And this is why its crucial to think of systems and processes before you focus on your people. Its really easy to slip into making systems that fit the strengths of your people, but watch out for this trap. It’s really easy to fall into it.
Start by listing the most important processes, write down the stages in each process and try to think of the most important information that you need in each stage. Also, try to create some sort of hierarchy between the processes so you understand which ones are the masters and which ones react to what happens in the other processes.
This work is best done on whiteboards and with sticky notes. Involve key people, but avoid groups larger than 6 people. Don’t let anyone mystify things with big words or jargon. Your business is about going from point A to point B as cost-efficiently and fast as possible and everything should be made as simple and practical as possible to do so.
Unless you are in the business of creating financial statements or optimising taxes you need to avoid getting trapped by financial systems at all cost. Bookkeeping, tax optimisation and the entire financial side of the business is an outcome of what you do, not the other way around.
When selecting IT systems it is very important to keep the number of different systems as small as possible. Also remember to keep your flexibility, because the world is always changing and you don’t want to lock yourself into heavy systems that are not in your control.
Beware of systems that you cant configure yourself and make sure you are 100% certain of what you are doing before integrating systems. Integrations often mean that you are locking yourself into working in a certain way so be very careful with this.
Start with free trials, see how different systems suit your needs and accept that many things still require manual work. One solution is to create your own super spreadsheet for prototyping. If Hailer suits your needs you can also start your freemium network.
2. Design, visualise and document
Did you know that nobody knows how your company should work better than you? Most people are already poor mind readers so it’s important that you create something that describes how you want your company to operate. I have never been good at documentation, but as you progress in modelling how your company works it is important that you create some sort of documentation.
Things may be very apparent to you, but people who are not yet involved will not necessarily understand the way you have envisioned things to work. Think of this as a handbook into how your company works. Keep it as simple and practical as you can and remember that people are visual.
3. Launch something quickly, stay heavily involved, observe and measure
When you have something usable, you need to put it to the test. Get some people involved and launch. In my experience, the only way to really test how ideas work is with real data and real people. This is not only to see how your already existing ideas work, but more importantly so you can design the next steps. Things may feel straightforward, but you will be surprised how your perspective may change as you put things into action.
Like Morpheus said in The Matrix: "There is a difference between walking the path and knowing the path" and as you are an entrepreneur, nobody knows your path yet. Not even yourself. This is why you need to take a few steps forward so your path gets further illuminated as you move forward.
4. Do everything manually first, then automate all that can be
With AI and digitalisation, more and more things will be automated, but nothing will happen over one night. People still need to decide what gets automated. People like you. Automation starts with small things and gradually larger bits of processes can be automated.
You need to identify the small things first before you can start focusing on the larger things to automate. Its starts with automatic announcements to the right people when certain things happen such as informing the sales team when a new deal is signed. Gradually you can start automating the way data flows across the organisation. An example, the way the costs of different components from suppliers can automatically update the data that your sales team uses to make their offers to your customers.
The sky is the limit to what can be automated when you become the master of your data. Before you can start dreaming about the fully automatic business you need to prepare to drill into the details and to be involved in all the trivial details of how your business is done.
If you are not willing to do this you at least need to employ someone really smart that works really close to you almost on a daily basis. You can also hire in a person from the Hailer team to do this on a 3-6 month project.
5. Now think PEOPLE, PEOPLE AND PEOPLE
Information is worth 0 until it’s in the hands of the right person. Picture yourself at the helm of a train moving along a scenic train track that runs through the Swiss Alps. Your entire organisation is on the train in different train carriages. You are just out of a long tunnel where you have been busy building processes, documenting, working on automating things etc.
Most of your team is still in the tunnel, while some have not yet even entered the tunnel. Maybe they are even in different tunnels. This is why you need to over-communicate what you want, offer people training and let people challenge and improve your ideas. Step 5 means that you repeat step 1,2,3 and 4 several times over again with different team members.
Each iteration round means that you have invested time in your business and in your people. At first, you have to almost force people through the steps, but eventually, the early adopters start to come up with ideas, soon thereafter more and more people join in and eventually you can start asking yourself if the organisation could perhaps manage without you? When this thought spontaneously crosses your mind your company has at worst doubled its valuation.
You are no longer working for your company, your company is now working for you. You are free. Free to focus on expanding your business into new territories, free to start preparing a life-changing exit or simply free to have more spare time while your business works for you.
It’s up to YOU
All entrepreneurs need to find their own way, but hopefully, the above points can help you in some way. Hailer was built from the ground up with the above mentality and is designed to help people achieve great things together. For me personally Hailer was always about creating a platform that can free me from all businesses that I want to be involved in and I really hope that Hailer can also help you on your journey to freedom.
Investing time in your business is harder in the short term, but well worth it in the long term
Author: Nico Larsen