When Adam Thompson talks with his coaching clients about why they wanted to start their own businesses, one common theme typically emerges.
“They do it because they’ve got an idea,” said Thompson, the owner, coach and chief accountability officer for FocalPoint Coaching of Minnesota. “They have some knowledge, experience and passion about their idea and they see a way to turn it into something significant that will help them build a better life for themselves, their families and their employees.”
What Thompson doesn’t hear about during these conversations is a burning desire to micromanage employees, process payroll or input data into spreadsheets. Because let’s face it – almost no one gets excited about those things!
Unfortunately, Thompson said, what often happens is that the minutiae of running a business ends up getting in the way of everything else. Gradually, instead of focusing on the great idea that prompted them to start their companies, business owners find themselves stuck in a maze with no clear way out.
“They’re having to constantly put out fires and fix issues and not only are they not doing the things that they enjoy doing, they’re also having to manage tasks that they were never equipped to do,” Thompson said, noting that many business owners have never been taught how to delegate. “Then the next thing they know, they’re chained to the desk, working late hours and they never feel caught up.”
This may not happen overnight, but in time, many business owners start to feel like they’re drowning in the details.
“It’s like a frog in boiling water,” Thompson said. “The heat slowly turns up and the next thing you know, the water is boiling and you didn’t realize it was happening. Suddenly, you’re mired in the weeds.”
At that point, it becomes less about building a business and having ownership of something you truly love and more about simply trying to survive.
And that’s often where Thompson enters the picture. With his mission of “building a better community by empowering business owners to build better businesses,” he works closely with his clients to help them reignite their entrepreneurial spark. He’ll start by asking a series of questions such as:
- What do you love to do?
- What are the things you’re best at?
- What motivated you to start your business?
- What are you uniquely equipped to do that will move your business forward?
After those questions have been explored and answered, the next step is to figure out what obstacles exist and how they can be overcome.
“We’ll work together to identify all the things that are standing in the way and determine how they can get cleared off the business owner’s plate,” Thompson said. “That might mean delegating tasks to another employee, outsourcing some of the work, creating new systems and processes or implementing new technology – anything that can get them raised up and out of the minutiae that might be holding them back.”
Once these barriers have been uncovered and cleared, Thompson said, a domino effect will occur.
“When people are able to focus on what they do best, it probably means that they’ll be a better boss,” Thompson said. “And they’re likely to be more pleasant to be around because they can spend more time doing what they love.”
Whether that means having the freedom to focus on revenue-producing activities or the flexibility to enjoy more time with their family, when business owners are able to tap back into their “why” and fully actualize their individual version of success, the sky is truly the limit to what they can achieve.
“When leadership is optimized, it allows everyone else in the organization to become optimized,” Thompson said. “In turn, the whole business will end up thriving.”
If you’re looking for ways to ensure you stay on track as a business owner without burning yourself out, here are a few of Thompson’s tips and suggestions:
- Set long-term goals and work backward: Business owners often find themselves looking at their calendars and making decisions based on what’s happening that day. And it makes sense, especially when you’re just starting out. That’s because when you have to make payroll and cover your lease, saying no to an immediate small win in favor of a bigger payoff in the future can be scary! However, by learning to focus on your long-term vision and work backward from there, the better of you’ll be. You can do this by asking yourself what your three to five year mission for your business is. Once you’ve nailed that down, you can start to think about what that means for you one year from now. What needs to be accomplished over the next three quarters? How about this month? Or this week? Then you can really start to be strategic with your planning and decision making. “The more you can maintain your long-term goals and vision, the more you can hold it up in front of you as a measuring stick,” Thompson said. “It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to continually make decisions that favor the long term over the short term, but if you can do it, you’ll be more likely to keep yourself out of trouble.”
- Hire great people: You can have the best technology, the fanciest systems and the coolest office space around but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the right team in place. “It’s always about finding people who believe in what you believe,” Thompson said. So how does pay figure into the equation? Well, Thompson advises that money isn’t the entire answer. “Of course you want to provide people with a sustainable living that allows them to do what they want to do,” he said. “But if your solution is to always throw more money at your employees, either you’ll either run out of money or someone else is going to come along and offer them more money.” In other words, if all you’ve ever offered your team is an OK job without any vision behind it, you shouldn’t be surprised when people jump ship. “If you can keep them engaged with what you do and why they matter, you suddenly have something that’s worth much more than the paycheck you’re giving them every week,” he said.
- Be an evangelist for your organization: Business owners wear many hats, but there’s one responsibility that is more crucial than all the rest. “Your most important role is to own, maintain and push the vision for the future of your company forward,” Thompson said. “As long as you have that vision and the ability to communicate why it matters and what the values and benefits are to your community, your team and your stakeholders, you’ll be able to weather any short-term storms that come your way.”
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