A recent survey of business owners found that the average entrepreneur spends over 69% of their time working “in” their business—tackling day-to-day tasks, putting out fires, etc.—and only 31% of the time working “on” their business—i.e. long-term goals, strategic planning. Perhaps even more interesting: 70% of business owners want to improve their skills as a business leaders. Clearly there a paradox here - one we see all the time as we engage with ambitious business leaders in ELITE.
The difference between success and failure comes down to creating and allocating time to build long term strategic goals that are well understood by the management team and the entire business. You simply cannot succeed unless you allocate time to this activity. Without it management, and therefore the business, will stumble from one hurdle to the next with no clear direction. Don’t confuse activity with productivity, or as my father often said “make sure you are not the busy fool”.
At ELITE we find many founders and business owners are aware of the need to create the time to work ON the business but face the difficult first hurdle in delegating tasks to their team. This process of ‘letting go’ can initially be frightening, but you should remember that it serves a dual purpose: Effective delegation allows you more time to build the long term strategy and vision of the business, and also allows you to identify the right successor for different parts of business and perhaps the business as a whole. Ownership drives responsibility, which in turn drives results, and while it is never easy to delegate initially, remember that you can’t do everything and more importantly, you are not the best person to do everything. As Sir Richard Branson has stated, “find people better than you to do the things you're not good at.”
The opportunity to work ON the business is not just for you, but also for your management team - it must be conducted in open and inclusive manner. MIT studies have shown that team dynamics in decision making can provide a diversity of viewpoints and input that can deter self-serving bias and belief perseverance. And don’t forget about the rest of the business - as I’ve highlighted in previous articles on diversity and team inclusion, your frontline staff have critical information and opinions that can diversify the data inputs into the long term decision making. Their inclusion will give them agency over the final outcomes.
Finally, as you make time to work on the business, don’t forget to allow yourself time to be creative - to come up with the blue sky ideas. According to John Kounios, a professor of Psychology at Drexel University and co-author of “The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight, and the Brain” exercising or being in nature releases a rush of endorphins that can promote a positive, relaxed mood. This can broaden your scope of thought to include remote ideas and long-shot possibilities.
We have all experienced an extraordinary year, so before the rush to normality takes over, take a moment, step back, and take the time to check, amend or rethink your long term strategy and vision. I often think that as business leaders we feel a greatest sense of responsibility to manage all aspects of the business - the customers, our employees and then on top of it all make the ‘magic happen’. But as Duke Stump the marketing guru says, firstly it’s OK not to have all the answers, and secondly good leadership is like parenting, “it’s not your job to create magic, but it’s your job to create the time and circumstances for magic to happen.”