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 fell into the trap of questioning my purpose. Working with my business coach, Mike Michalowicz, we embarked on a process to redesign my business, commonly known as “clockworking.” This term gained popularity after Mike published his book several years ago. Clockworking involves setting a future date to step away from the business and take a four-week vacation. It’s not an immediate transformation. I personally set a date 15 months in advance.
During that time, my team and I focused on identifying tasks that my husband and I handled, but could be delegated to others with proper training. The goal was to remove ourselves from day-to-day operations. It took us a considerable amount of time to pinpoint these tasks, hire and train additional team members, and fine-tune the process through a trial vacation. After thorough preparation, we bid farewell to the business and enjoyed a complete four-week break.
Throughout that period, I completely disconnected from my team – no emails, chats, or social media. The remarkable outcome was twofold: I gained mental clarity, and my team gained confidence in their ability to handle responsibilities independently, without relying 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!
To design your business around your life, focus on how you allocate your time. In Mike Michalowicz’s book, Clockwork, he introduces the concept of the 4 D’s: Doing, Deciding, Delegating, and Designing. If you find yourself consumed by the Doing aspect, it’s likely that you’re overwhelmed. Similarly, if your team constantly seeks your input for decisions, overwhelm is still present.
The key to breaking free from overwhelm lies in reaching the Delegating stage. Delegate tasks to your team members, ensuring they take ownership and have the authority to make decisions that lead to optimal results. Successful delegation allows you to reclaim some time to concentrate on designing your business. Repeat the process of delegating and designing until you’re ready to take your well-deserved four-week vacation.
Once you reach this stage, you regain control and can shape your business to align with your desired lifestyle.
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!