I was recently visiting a friend of mine who owns his own coffee shop business with his wife. Sure, it is not a spa like mine, but it is a business nonetheless and businesses are typically similar at the most basic levels.
Money in should be greater than money out.
Whoever can do this most efficiently gets to stay in business and continue playing the game.
However, my friend was telling me that he and his wife are feeling a little bit overwhelmed, like they are not succeeding as well as they would like in their business. Now these are two highly educated people coming from successful careers who are following their passions. So far so good!
So I asked them exactly what they thought the problem was. He said that he felt like they were very busy and performing lots of activity, but he wasn't sure that it was going to ensure the success of the business long-term.
They complained about the fact that they need to perform tons of small activities in addition to serving their customers including making sure bills are paid, making sure there's enough supplies on hand, and trying to keep everything neat and tidy.
Everyone feels good when your chosen activity brings in money. But it is hard to live with a nagging feeling that you are not running things as well as you can.
I understand exactly how they felt.
I used to feel that way myself and occasionally still do. But, I recommend that they pick up the book The E-myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. This book helped me categorize all of the activities that need to be performed in my own business with the next step being to create roles for those activities.
The good thing about creating roles and putting activities underneath those roles is that you're able to gain a high-level perspective about the work that needs to be done and assess which activities produce the most value for the company.
For example would you expect the CEO of a small corporation to be the same person that stocks the shelves, cleans the bathrooms, or serves the customer?
No, but if you are in a one or two person shop, all of these roles need to be filled and you’re going to do it if you want to stay in business.
However, what happens in most businesses that are run by smart, intelligent people who are very skilled in their craft but perhaps still learning how to create a business, is that they tend to maximize spending time doing things that are necessary but low value. It is a near certainty that they will then put the high-value activities such as marketing, organizational design, and research, on the back burner.
It's not that they do not think these things are important, it's just that they don’t seem to be important right now. And so the natural result is that these items are never completed because no time is allocated or planned for the activity. They keep getting pushed off until ‘later’.
Over time, what happens is that eventually the business owner starts to get very tired in their business. Tired of the day-to-day activity that is, let’s face it, quite low value.
What they begin to realize is that they have created a job and not a vehicle that has the ability to carry them into their retirement with ease.
So the solution sounds easy but is actually quite difficult to implement.
They need to take a little time each week and sit down in a quiet place and think about what they want their business to be like. Then they must determine what they want their life to be like with respect to the business.
Someone once said that thinking is one of the hardest activities in the world.
People would rather do things out of habit, get their ideas from other people, or go into a state of avoidance, rather than actually use their mind to come up with a novel, original, and new idea that works for them, and only them.
So yes, I recommend that anyone who is starting the adventure of running a business to pick up and understand the methodology presented in the E-myth Revisited book. But it is still up to each individual to do the heavy lifting to visualize, plan, and think through what each of the roles in the business should be doing, and how each of those activities should be valued.
Write down clear goals for each of the roles in the business and set a date to evaluate the performance against those goals. Place these goals in a visible location where you and your business partner can constantly review them.
Begin to think about ways in which your business can begin to hire people to perform some of the lowest value yet essential activities. As you do this you will see that you have more time to do the most value-added activities if you focus on them. And, once again, the highest value activities are planning your business, and gaining new customers.
Your ability to build a business that does not rely on you to be there 100% of the time depends on your ability to successfully plan the business, and automate the creation of new customers as well as the retention of current customers.