Building a business is like having a baby. You go through the pregnancy and birthing process, and everyone is so excited for you. People congratulate you everywhere you go and conversations start with questions about the baby. Everyone wants to hold it, there’s a lot of ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing’ over how cute the baby is, and people are generally happy to share in some of the excitement and energy that comes with a newborn.
Next up is the toddler stage. Everything is overwhelming and you’re constantly chasing your child saying ‘Don’t touch!’ ‘Careful!’ or ‘Mommy needs one minute to think…do you think you can be quiet for just one minute?’
It’s a full-on sprint with a never-ending barrage of emergencies and unexpected turns of events. And to top it all off, it also feels like no one is around to help and everyone is judging how you’re coping.
When you finally feel like you’ve gotten the hang of this parenthood thing, and wild tantrums seem to be a thing of the past, your toddlers turn into teenagers!
This is a whole new phenomenon of never-before-seen territory. They’re unpredictable, hopped up on hormones, and old enough to *think* they know what’s best for them. Sure, sometimes they come out on top and really surprise you with what they can achieve, but you’re never really sure if it was a fluke or not.
At this stage, your maturing teen needs more loving care, knowledge, and guidance than you feel equipped to offer. You consider bringing in backup but have no idea what kind of help you need or where to even start looking. The options themselves are overwhelming…
- Do you need to meet with the school teachers and guidance counsellors?
- Or maybe it’s best to see a family therapist for some outside and unbiased help?
- Would it be helpful to call up your besties, who have walked the teen years before with their own children, to get their perspective peppered with some good old-fashioned fun for you as the parent?
- Or maybe you should try talking it through as a family. Find some time to sit down together and figure out what everyone’s responsibility is within the family unit to make it work.
Your baby has grown and is continuing to grow. And as they change and grow, their needs change and grow right alongside them. They become more complex, and problems are no longer solved with a loving response and a warm hug. And what’s worse is you don’t feel you have the knowledge, experience, or ability to pull this off. You’re overwhelmed and you’re starting to question if you’ve got what it takes.
Do you see the parallel here?
When you started your business, it was new and exciting. Everyone wanted to be part of it and celebrate your new venture. As it began to take shape, things became busy as you worked tirelessly to build the best business you could. The fountain of work never seemed to turn off, but you kept running to keep up because this business was a part of you, and you were committed to doing what was best for it.
And now, the endless hours and endless days you invested into your business are finally starting to pay off! But new issues are coming up. Things you haven’t dealt with before. Things you couldn’t ever have predicted.
The good news here is that backup is available. Just like bringing in resources to help with your fledgling teen, it’s time to scale and create systems that support you and your growing business.
First things first, you need to assume a CEO mindset. Until now, you’ve been an employee and owner, but it’s important to expand your perspective and assume the role of CEO.
Think about where your business is going long-term and how you’re going to get there. This is often one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur because, for it to work and be really effective, you must get out of the weeds. You can’t be bogged down with the smaller (yet crucial) tasks of running the business when you’re trying to establish the bigger picture. And when you’re the sole person running the show, taking time away from the day-to-day operations just doesn’t seem like an option.
Make it an option. Take a day and go somewhere that inspires you to think, dream, and plan.
In my opinion, if you don’t take the time to build the bigger picture, your options become:
1) Stay as you are for the time being and eventually fizzle out; or,
2) Fizzle out now.
I get that this seems drastic, and maybe it is a little. But in all honesty, if your business is growing and you’re struggling to keep up, is it sustainable? Odds are, it isn’t.
In all likelihood, you’re going to burn out.
So, you can decide to keep it going status quo for now and hope for the best (which in my opinion will lead to a slow fizzle) or you can stop now because you already feel like you’ve been in an upward battle for too long and are too tired to keep climbing alone.
Take some much-needed time and energy to focus on the vision you have for your business. Then, based on the vision you have, set some goals. Ask yourself what the big things are that you need to achieve this year in order to get you closer to achieving your vision. Once you know what you’re going for, it makes it easier to identify what you need to do and prioritize accordingly. Next, break your goals down into milestones and set target dates for each milestone. This will help you assign actionable tasks to each milestone for the quarter, the month, and the week.
The key here is you always want to know what the big picture is. Maintain focus on the vision for your business and make decisions for daily to-do’s based on whether or not they help you get closer to that vision. Don’t get sidetracked by shiny objects.
Creating a CEO mindset and an intentional approach to your task list is important. Because through consistent and conscious efforts every day, you’ll find yourself getting closer to achieving your vision.
Now that you know where you’re going, the next thing to decide is who’s along for the ride? Yes, you are an entrepreneur, but odds are, you’re not a miracle worker. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Sure, you might have gotten this far doing it alone but now it’s time to be the CEO, not the entire team.
Figure out what must be done by you and do that. For everything else, find a viable solution that will still get the task done but not drain your own personal resources. Remember, not everything needs to be done by you in order for it to be done right. *gasp!*
If cost is an issue and you aren’t ready to expand your payroll, consider other options. For example, you could hire an intern and give them some relevant work experience or you could work with a virtual assistant agency and let them take care of your more administrative tasks. Not everything needs to be achieved by hiring full-time or even part-time employees, and you don’t need to hire an expensive agency to get help either.
While you’re considering alternative ways to bring on talent, you might start to wonder “Is this really necessary?” When those thoughts come up, ask yourself what is it costing you not to?
Should you bring on a virtual assistant to do administration? …What is it costing you not to?
Should you hire a full-time permanent employee? …What is it costing you not to?
Should you work with an advisory firm or creative agency? …What is it costing you not to?
There is a financial consideration to every decision you make. But remember that you are only one person and can only do so much. Don’t invest frivolously, but also don’t become the bottleneck for your business to save a few dollars.
Grow your team in the most suitable way for your business so you have the capacity to focus on the things that will allow the business itself to grow. Identify what the team is responsible for by delegating tasks that aren’t required to be handled by you, the CEO. In my opinion, scaling your team will sustain, and step up, your business results.
In addition to expanding your in-house team to help manage operations and day-to-day activities, what other roles and resources do you need to support your business? For example, in my business, my extended team includes lawyers, accountants, designers, technical services and, you guessed it, coaches.
These people are not on my payroll but are contracted to provide services that support my business. And even though they aren’t ‘staff’, they are an important part of my team. I depend on them for very specific knowledge and expertise.
Finally, scaling your business doesn’t stop at hiring staff and outsourcing to contractors. Automated systems and processes are important for your business as well. In fact, automation can streamline your business processes leaving you with more time to focus on the tasks that require your attention.
Consider a CRM (customer relationship management) with regard to your client management and communication. Trigger workflows can be built into your CRM to ensure things happen when you need them to based on an ‘if this then that’ model. This means your customers are receiving timely and relevant information through specific automation without you needing to be directly involved in more routine requests.
Identifying where you can streamline and automate processes in your business can greatly alleviate your workload when running a creative business, and in some instances, help you run the business even while you sleep.
The important thing to remember here is that everything you are adding to your business to build scale is with the goal of achieving greater results than if you kept at it alone.
Adding resources, whether they are people, systems, or equipment is unnecessary unless they help you achieve your desired result. Are the new systems, processes, or roles helping you get there faster, easier, or more effectively? If not, reassess and shift where you need to.
It’s important to know what’s working and what needs to be adjusted because the end goal here is to find an affordable solution that helps your business perform at the current state and positions you favorably to grow to the desired state through an appropriate scale. By scaling your business with people and resources, you are relieving some of the pressure on you as the business owner and employee, chief dishwasher and dog walker. Scaling your business allows you to step into the role of visionary CEO.
The final point I’d like to make about scaling your business to sustain your success is to take breaks, recharge and practice some self-care.
I know this isn’t standard business advice, but in my opinion, it should be.
Running a business is all-encompassing, especially a business that is built on your passion and unleashes a part of you that’s been stifled for so long.
Having said that, working to the point of exhaustion and burnout is a dead-end road, and it’s possible regardless of how much you love what you do.
The good news is you’ve scaled your business with people and resources to help you manage the day-to-day operations.
Let your team manage for a day without you. Set up the automation in your CRM to nurture your clients.
Take a day off to sleep in, go for a walk, and simply rest in a way that is meaningful for you.
It’s important to learn what your own personal signs of burnout look and feel like. And when you start to see the signs bubbling up, don’t squash them down because they’ll find a way to weasel their way out bigger and badder than they would if you’d simply acknowledged them in the first place.
If you’ve taken the time to scale your business with the systems, resources, and expanded team in place, you now have the ability to step back in those areas and let others do what you hired them to do. Take the opportunity and let yourself catch your breath.
A day away won’t destroy your business, but burnout and stress very well may.