An astonishing truth, according to a Forbes Magazine article, is that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurial businesses fail within the first 18 months. What sets the 20 percent apart? Eric T. Wagner, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, notes that one of five primary reasons for failure is: “Leadership breakdown at the top (yes — founder dysfunction).”
His other reasons include a lack of pertinent dialog with customers and lack of a unique value proposition, an impractical or ineffective business model, and communication problems.
We would suggest another problem: Myriad daily demands that compete for your attention, and the inability to hand some of them off to others. It is an immense and underlying concern. It’s difficult to give up control, particularly when you’re the driving force in a small business. But, it’s a necessary ingredient to foster growth.
Here are some strategies for successfully handing over some of your tasks to other people, or to outside firms. If you’ve already grown beyond “solopreneurship,” you probably know that future growth hinges not only on getting additional business and boosting the bottom line but also on making the time to concentrate on whatever it is that you do best. Time inefficiencies also affect employee productivity.
By recognizing and eliminating those “time robbers,” you can build new pathways to success. Here are some common stumbling blocks, and ways to kick them out of the way:
Stop Acting as “Fireman”
Do you routinely say to your employees or to your subcontractors, “Call me if you have a problem?” If so, it may be that you spend too much time “putting out fires.” Chaos only breeds more chaos.
A better strategy might be to sit down with key people on a routine basis to brainstorm about the kinds of things that can go wrong and discuss ways not only to avoid those situations but to deal with them if they occur. Empower your staff to take action, occasionally or routinely, without your immediate blessing. It may be difficult to back away, but if you surround yourself with good people, define the parameters of responsibility, and “let go” when appropriate, the end result will be a more effective, more efficient and more cohesive leadership team. Back them up, however, if their action would not have been your action.
Take Advantage of Technology
Smart technology has given modern business many ways to “work smarter.” Instant communication, verifiable field data, automated reporting, and off-site management are relatively new to the marketplace. They have altered the face of modern commerce, introducing new and streamlined procedures. Fields as diverse as manufacturing and medicine, retail sales and real estate, construction, and entertainment all rely on integrated reporting, real-time reports, visual communication, effective scheduling, time management assistance, and central reporting systems.
With a mobile workforce and multiple locations, you must rely on others for your daily information. Establish a way to track job site progress, manage people and evaluate progress efficiently, and you will have more freedom to dream big dreams and to grow your business.
Establish Clear, Well-Defined Goals
It’s not enough to say to yourself, your family or your co-workers that you want to expand your business. Give your dreams some form: Get specific, put your plans in writing, develop a timeline, and chart your progress over days, weeks and months. Look at both individual jobs and overall sales volume. Analyze the results and revise projections as necessary. Share the results with key staff and discuss implications and directions.
It’s a bit like starting a diet or an exercise program. Good intentions simply do not work. But seeing how daily or weekly progress adds up over time is a great motivator. It’s also enlightening to see where achievement falls short of expectations. Learn from every failure, but celebrate every milestone. Never give up, but also never be unrealistic. It is much better to forge a new path than to become mired in the mud.
Plan for Success
By all means, plan to succeed. But understand that no one ever scores without missing a few shots. It’s the truth. So, in your ongoing journey to business success, back away occasionally in order to gain the proper perspective. Walk away from the details in order to look at the big picture.
Concentrate on your strengths and take steps to strengthen your weaknesses. Enroll in classes; take advantage of networking opportunities, attend roundtables and discussion groups with like-minded leaders and firms; get involved in your community or take a day to go fishing.
As far as your business model, it’s a good way to move another item into the category of “problem solved.”