Are you up for the business challenge? Ask most business owners and they’ll tell you that running a business may be worthwhile but is not easy. And as your business grows, so do the complexities of running it. If you think that you can be the boss and it will all run smoothly without you, think again. If you aren’t willing to put in the work in the beginning to set up the culture, the systems, the processes and the automations that need to happen so that it can run profitably without you, you are setting your business up for failure down the road.
I’ve been running a business for 20 years and have met enough business owners along the way to understand:
- what needs to be done,
- what the common pitfalls are and
- the right chess moves to make.
So here are 10 homes truths you need to bring on board if you want to run a business and have it still going 5 years from now.
1. It’s all your fault – be OK with that
If there’s anything not working in your business, that’s your fault. Period. It’s not your staff’s fault. It’s not ANYONE else’s fault. It’s yours.
- Either they are following systems that don’t work (and that’s your fault).
- Or you haven’t put any systems in place in the first place (so of course it’s all going to go to hell in a hand basket).
- Or they are not following systems that do work (and the fact that they aren’t following them is, you’ve guessed it, your fault).
It’s a valid business challenge, but whichever way, it’s down to you to
- put the systems in place,
- fix them when they need to change, and
- hire and train the right staff to do the work the right way.
If things aren’t working, YOU didn’t put in the right checks and balances in the first place, and YOU didn’t act soon enough to stop the downward spiral when it started. Man up. It’s ALL your fault. You need to be OK with that to be a business owner.
Once you get this, everything else will fall into place because you’ll do everything to ensure the ship is not going down on your watch.
2. Eliminate a major business challenge – hire the RIGHT staff
It seems like a no-brainer, but this is where most of the foundational work needs to be laid. Too many business owners try to fit square pegs into round holes. It happens because:
- They make a hiring mistake and want to give the employee a chance.
- Or they hire cheap and don’t get the skills essential for the role they are hiring for.
- Then when things don’t work out, they don’t feel good letting people go because they know that, ultimately, they made the hiring mistake.
It’s not the employee’s fault they can’t do the job. YOU put them in the wrong role. That’s a business challenge that will snowball if left to run its course unchecked.
But it’s not your responsibility to make them do the job right. It’s not your responsibility to train them to do the job. They should walk through the door on the first day already highly competent, not only to do the job, but to add value in improving it. You aren’t doing your staff member any favours if you keep them in a role they aren’t suited for and you will run yourself into the ground trying to pick up the pieces in the process.
Hire qualified people for every role so the only training that needs to happen is to have them understand how their role fits into your processes and systems. Their ability to do the job right shouldn’t even be a question because you should have established that in the hiring process. Remember, hire slow, fire fast.
3. Hire better than you
Hire experts for the roles you can’t do. You aren’t good at accounts. Don’t do it. Hire someone who can. You aren’t good at Facebook ads. Don’t struggle trying to make sense of it. Hire someone who has already gotten results. Hire people that will bring ADDITIONAL VALUE to your business with the knowledge they bring with them.
When you get people who know what they are doing in each role, you can focus on working ON your business not IN it.
4. Systemise everything or it will always be a business challenge
Think you are running a small business so you don’t need to document Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? Wrong!
Firstly, that tells me your mindset isn’t on growth. When you get in more staff, they are going to need instructions to follow, otherwise it’s a free for all. Secondly, you don’t want to be repeating yourself over and over. Document down how EVERYTHING is done to the last detail. If it happens in your business, no matter how insignificant, get it documented – down to how to change the liquid soap in the bathroom! If it doesn’t get documented, it doesn’t get done or done right.
5. Trust that your staff want to do well
Keeping staff happy and motivated is a serious business challenge. Ignore it at your peril. Everyone wants to feel good about their job. They want to be recognised and respected. They want to feel they contributed. When they make a mistake, it’s just that. They aren’t trying to spite you or bring down your business. (If they are, you have a serious issue and need to resolve that.) Respect your staff, involve them, and you’ll see the returns.
6. Blame the system not the staff
Be ready to deal with the next business challenge as it comes up, for it will. Don’t play the blame game. Don’t be a victim in your business. The beauty about having systems in place is that when something goes wrong, you can look to the system to see why it didn’t catch that. Where is the leak you need to plug?
Actually, having things go wrong is an OPPORTUNITY.
- It’s an opportunity to improve the business.
- It’s an opportunity to grow your staff.
- It’s an opportunity for good internal communication.
- It’s an opportunity to fine-tune your company culture.
- It’s an opportunity for teamwork.
When the system fails, get the staff on the ground working the system to come up with the solutions. Don’t blame them for the system failure. Often these issues happen because your business has grown and processes have changed and something in your system got overlooked. Here’s your opportunity to fix it so that issue doesn’t happen again. By involving your staff in the solution, instead of getting reprimanded, your staff feel rewarded for being able to contribute and add value.
And if the system works and it was a staff failing, look for the reason why. Is it a one off, are they having personal problems, is it a repeated issue? If it is a repeated issue and despite corrective training it still persists, you need to have an honest conversation with the staff about moving on.
Everyone makes mistakes. It will happen. No system is going to catch them all. Accept that. If it’s a first instance, have an open discussion and put training in place on the assumption that they didn’t know or they forgot. Don’t assume that they don’t care.
7. Adopt technologies that help you automate what you can
The less you leave to human error, the fewer staffing issues you will have and the fewer mistakes will impact the business and your customer relationships. Look at every repetitive task in your business. If you have to repeat something, it can be automated. I’ve listed what I use and that’s why I recommend them. Full disclosure – I am an affiliate for some, but only because I use them myself and recommend what works for me.
- Use payroll software that automates the calculations and automatically generates the required staff salary and tax slips. I use hreasily.com
- Use accounting software that keeps you in the picture of your current and projected finances and that will automate invoice billing for recurring items. I outsource to an accountant and keep track using xero.com
- Save time with software that will turn quotations into invoices at the touch of a button, removing time-consuming duplicate data entry
- Get software that automates your workflows and sends reminders, so nothing gets forgotten. I use dubsado.com for these last two points.
- Put your social media content distribution on autopilot with software that releases it for you. I use eclincher.com to preschedule all my posts.
- Find a system that allows you to set tasks and separate your teams. I use trello.com to manage projects, especially my marketing and funnels.
- Get a marketing solutions that gives you site hosting, unlimited landing pages, membership sites, funnel building, affiliate tracking, video hosting, course creation, payment gateways and email marketing ALL IN ONE. I use simplero.com
8. Learn to accept there are better ways to do things
Just because you are used to doing something one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better, quicker or easier way. Instead of having a closed mind and not entertaining suggestions from your staff for improvement, have an open mind and ask yourself, what if this works? Yes, technology is only as good as the data input, so instead of seeing it as yet another business challenge by assuming the data input will be wrong, come at it with the mindset that you can systemise and train so that the data input will be right. The insights you will get from automation will be eye opening, and your business will be the better for it.
9. Create a culture of open communication
Be open with your staff about your vision and bring them along with you. Paint the picture of growth and that they all play an important role in that. Because you’ve set up systems that don’t lay blame on your innocent staff, you can create a culture of inclusion and collaboration:
- where it’s OK to make mistakes and grow from them, and
- where ideas for new ways are valued and tried.
Not all leaders are created equal and that’s OK. Compare Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – two very successful business innovators with two very different styles of leadership. There’s no one style better than the other. Your personality and natural strengths will dictate the kind of leader you will be. Just realise that if you tend to be the Steve Jobs type, have a layer of leadership under you that deals with the day-to-day staff communications. If you are a big picture person, know that your right-hand person needs to be detail oriented.
10. Above all, be the leader you set out to be
Remember that this is your company and that your employees look to you for direction and guidance. By putting all the above in place, you are setting yourself up to lead by example and run a business prepared for growth. You will have freed your time to focus on leading not fighting fires, working on developing your business rather than the day-to-day running of it. Replace yourself as manager as soon as you can afford to do so.
The question is, are you up to the challenge?