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Too little time and too much pressure for business owners

There never seems to be enough time in the day. This is especially the case for small business owners, which also adds more pressure when the time seems to just run out.

We take a look at some of the issues and impact of time pressures on SME business owners, and what can be done about them.

Close up of hand with stop watch

Business owner’s time on a business is often directly linked to business performance

Depending on the stage of the business, the owner’s availability will be comparatively more or less. In startups and growing businesses that aren’t yet independent, the owner’s time is critical. This is because they’re often working both within the business, as well as on the business’ growth.

They’re fulfilling one, or in many cases, multiple roles which require their input on an ongoing basis.

The further you go along the business journey, the ratio will switch more to working on the business rather than in it, but when we look at startups or early phase growth companies, the business owner’s time is taken up doing operational tasks or specific roles within the company than we believe is necessary.

They are often working on jobs that exist within the company, rather than providing strategic input to improve the way the company is working. Making that switch in their focus is vital for growth, progression, personal satisfaction for many owners and ultimately if they want freedom from the business (whether that be existing or a passive income from it).

Business owners time on strategic tasks is more valuable per hour than you might think!

Although it may read that we are saying business owners should simply hire in someone to take on the ‘doing’ of the work itself and leave them to focus on managing the business, it isn’t as straight forward as that. It needs to be a gradual process, one that is supported by the finances and the willingness of the owner to step back from their ‘trade’ and focus on running a business.

In our experience, the business owner’s work on business owner tasks is generally more valuable per hour than the cost of doing administrative tasks.

A simple example of this would be if a business owner is doing £10 per hour tasks, such as basic admin. These are simple tasks that could easily be passed on to other people. This is then distracting them away from the £100 per hour tasks that they are skilled and capable of doing.

Calculating how many hours the business owner spends on £10 per hour tasks, where they could be doing £100 per hour tasks, is vital to getting the best out of their time. Once there is clarity on this, they often understand the need to hire a person to cover these tasks, otherwise, the business will never grow.

Business owners can never switch off and it harms them at a personal level

If anything happens to the business owner, the company will suffer substantial problems. The sales stop, the money stops, or the bills stop getting paid. This could even end up with payroll not being processed that month.

There are a whole range of scenarios where the business owners are often the only person that can currently complete these tasks. If that’s the case, should anything happen to the owner, then the business itself comes into difficulty.

Having the ability to reduce reliance upon the business owner and to build up at least one other person within the company that can take over those roles in the event of a tragedy, is of great importance.

Most business owners we know, have nearly everything reliant upon themselves. They tend to be very committed, very hard working but also hugely stressed.

They struggle to switch off. They might take time out to go on holiday, but they will still have their phone on, have their laptop to hand and still be working by the pool. That isn’t really a break.

It’s a perpetual drain on their emotional condition. In terms of mental health and physical health, they often don’t take time to exercise and do the things they should on a personal level.

There are lots of reasons why it’s problematic to them at a human level. In terms of the business itself, reliance is always going to be a risk.

Understand all of the roles you fulfil

One of the actions we undertake with clients is to look at what we call their organisational chart by role. Traditionally, organisational charts are done by people, so you might say ‘well, there’s two of us in the business and therefore it will have two squares on the organisation chart with our names’.

When we create an organisational chart by role, we actually map out how many positions are within the company. There will be a managing director or finance director, sales director, operations director and HR. There will normally be a level of management and a level of front end technicians as well.

A two-person business might have to fulfil 30 roles between them. So, with your chart by role, you then assign those roles to the number of people you have in your business and add each individual’s name to the roles within the company.

You can then take this one step further and identify what the key responsibilities are and the minimum realistic amount of time each of these specific tasks should take to complete each day, week, month and year.

From this you are then able to build a better diary that actually prevents balls from being dropped in any particular court at any time.

Delegation, delegation, delegation

Taking a look at the areas of business reliance can help. Write down a long list and see how many of these things truly need to sit with you, and how many could be delegated to team members if a system was written, or training was given.

Using technology can be very useful, especially with software such as diary management systems. The use of virtual assistants and outsourcing for an additional pair of hands that can be used on an ad hoc basis which aren’t a permanent overhead, allows for more to get done in peak times or when the extra assistance is needed. This ends up saving time for the higher value tasks.

Often, business owners aren’t great at seeing what they can delegate or handover. They have what we could call a superhero complex, where ‘no one else can do it as well as me, it would take too much time to train somebody up, or it’s faster for me to do it.’

How a business coach can help you

A business coach can help draw out the reality of risk around over reliance on one individual.

Getting an external perspective on the organisational chart, ask challenging questions about the value of the tasks completed and where you focus your time, and look at things like diary management at a granular level, can be the difference from an 80-hour week to one of 40 hours, for the same outcomes.

If you think you need help to reduce your stress as a business owner, get in touch today for your free business review.

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