The general tendency of most business owners is to measure success in dollars and cents. But truly, the greatest currency we have as business owners is time. From a financial perspective, was your ecommerce business successful last year? How about from a time perspective? How well did you spend your time last year?
Time to Review and Reflect
As we begin a new year, I invite you to review last year’s business operations from the standpoint of time. Ask yourself, “Is my business supporting the lifestyle I want to live?” If you’re like most business owners, creating the lifestyle you want is probably one of the reasons you became an entrepreneur in first place. I’m sure it wasn’t so you could work never-ending hours, doing all the work yourself. Yet so often, this is exactly what happens. You invest all your time (and energy) working in your business that the life you envisioned for yourself seems to pass you right by. Maybe this works for you, or so you think. But I can tell you, when it comes time to sell your business, this can really backfire on you.
For the past 18 months or so, we’ve seen the market for ecommerce businesses go off the charts. We’ve had several of our own clients take advantage of this trend and sell their businesses. Potential buyers like businesses that aren’t too owner-dependent. This comes right back to how you spend your time. One way to make your business more valuable is to build it so that it runs without you.
Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
As entrepreneurs, we often fall into the trap of doing everything ourselves. We think no one can do it quite as well as we do, and while it is hard to face this, the reality is our ego may be skewing our perception. Many of my team members now are better bookkeepers than I am. I suspect as you build out your team, those people closest to the work will become more of an expert than you. This trap of believing you’re the only one who can do the job has some significant consequences, too. The primary concern is burnout; how long can you operate with little sleep and heightened stress; missing out on family activities and not taking care of yourself? Why not avoid that black hole and intentionally design the business to serve your personal lifestyle?
A Proven Method That’s Worth Repeating
Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I admit that I had fallen into that trap, and I was beginning to wonder, why am I even doing this? As I worked with my business coach, Mike Michalowicz, we began to redesign or “clockwork” my business. This is a term that has become well known since Mike published his book about it several years ago. Clockworking your business involves setting a future date for leaving your business and taking a 4-week vacation. You then work through several steps to prepare your business and your team for that date. It doesn’t happen overnight. I set my date for 15 months out. During that time, my team and I worked on identifying all the aspects of the business that my husband and I were handling, but that could be turned over to others, with adequate training, of course. The idea was for us to move out of the day-to-day activity of our business. It took us that long to identify the activities we do, hire and train the team resources and then practice with a mini-vacation to ensure we had it dialed in. We then boarded a plane and said goodbye to the business for four full weeks. For those four weeks, I was completely unplugged from my team. No email or chat or even social media. The cool thing was not only did I benefit with a clearer mind, but my team gained the confidence that they could handle things themselves and they did not need to rely on us.
That first 4-week vacation took place several years ago, and it is now an annual event in our business. Sometimes, I think my team looks forward to our time away, too. It allows them to continue challenging themselves and one another. I think they benefit from it as much as we do!
Time to Get Serious!
If you’re ready to design your business to support your life, then get serious about where you spend your time. In Mike Michalowicz’ book, Clockwork, he shares a concept of the 4 D’s. They are Doing, Deciding, Delegating, Designing. If you are spending all your time Doing, you are likely overwhelmed. If you have a team and they constantly come to you for decisions, you are also likely overwhelmed. The real opportunity to break out of the overwhelm is to get to the stage of delegating. Delegate tasks to your team members and ensure that they own the outcome and are empowered to make the decisions to get to the ideal results. Once you successfully delegate, you free up a little time to spend designing your business. This idea of delegate and design is repeated many times until you are able to get away for your 4- week vacation. When you reach this stage, you are in control and can build your business to support your life.
Here are a few questions to get you started on the path to clockworking your business:
- How are you spending your time? If you don’t know, track it for a couple of weeks.
- What are you doing that is not necessary? Can you just stop doing it? Can you do less of it?
- What can be transferred to a team member? If you don’t have a team yet, what can you outsource?
- Are you truly delegating or are you requiring your team to come back to you for decisions? I don’t suggest just throwing things at them with no training or guidance. Take the time to teach them your model for making decisions and identify the types of things that might truly require your input; don’t leave it to chance.
If you’re ready to get serious about designing your business, pick up a copy of Clockwork and get started! Once we took that leap, we never looked back, and it’s been a game-changer for us as business owners!