I hope that title got your attention, because I’m serious. I am seeing way too many people gambling with the life of their business, and it worries me.
When I say gambling, I don’t mean that they’re playing fast and loose with their money or that they’re slacking on their service. These are businesspeople who care about their business and truly believe in the difference it can make for their clients and their employees. They put their hearts and souls into their work.
So how are they gambling with the life of their business? By making their business dependent on them.
Before we go any further, let’s do a quick survey: If you had to take time away from your business because you had no choice, which of the following would happen?
- My employees and processes would fill the gap and keep things going—and growing.
- Things would be okay for a couple of weeks, but I would have fires to put out when I got back.
- Things would be okay for a week. Okay, maybe a few days. Only if it was a real emergency.
- Take time off from my business? You’re joking, right?
If you answered anything other than #1, you are gambling with the life of your business. Your business is dependent on you being there all the time to keep it running. If you’re not there, actively engaged all the time, things start to fall apart.
I know: You love your business. You want to be actively engaged in your business. After all, you started this business. It’s your baby.
I get it. I love my business, too. I started it so I could run it, so I could be there to see how it changes people’s lives. I have zero desire to sell my business or leave it to someone else to run. But I would be kidding myself if I believed that nothing will ever happen to get between me and my ability to do that.
Let me tell you a story about a client of mine, who is also a dear friend. I’ve been working with her for more than 10 years, and for most of that time I’ve been telling her she needs to hire an assistant. She had all the usual reasons not to, including that she didn’t think she could afford it. I kept at her, with passion, and a few years ago she finally took the plunge and hired a part-time assistant. Not too long ago, she hired a second team member. Now, she’s fighting cancer.
One day recently, it was all she could do to get out of bed to go to her treatment. That was her success of the day; she didn’t have energy for anything else—including running her business. If she didn’t have her team in place and ready to go, she wouldn’t just have her health to worry about. She would be stressed about what was going to happen to her business, and that stress would not make it easier for her to take care of herself and fight this cancer. It would make it harder.
If I’ve scared you with that story, good. I wanted to. Bad things happen. It’s inevitable. You or someone you love will get sick or be injured or die. Your pipes will burst; a tree will take out your roof; your car will conk out on you. If you haven’t prepared your business to keep going and growing on its own so you can focus fully on the emergency at hand, you will have a second emergency to deal with: the possible failure of your business.
That’s not fair to your business. It’s not fair to your customers. It’s not fair to you.
So, are you going to keep whistling past the graveyard, or are you going to get your business ready? Are you going to keep babying your business, or are you going to teach it to walk and run on its own?
I hope you’re with me, that you’re starting to see how vital it is to the life of your business that it be able to keep performing at top capacity when you have to step away. If so, let’s get to it. The way you prepare your business and yourself for those inevitable emergencies is by making more money and creating more time. You also do it by dreaming about the life you want to live.
Make More Money
I talk a lot about your Why: why you do what you do; why you’re in business in the first place; what difference you want to make in your community and the world. Your Why is the heart of your business, but a heart needs blood to keep pumping. Your business needs money to keep running. If your business is barely bringing in enough money to keep the doors open, there’s no room for anything to go wrong.
The first thing you need to do to ensure that your business will keep running, whatever happens, is to take care of your bottom line by:
- Generating more revenue/sales on a regular and consistent basis
- Having more income
- Increasing your cash reserves
We all know what revenue is: the total amount of money your business brings in through sales. What people don’t talk about is how important having a consistent stream of revenue is. When you have a sales and closing process that reliably and steadily produces closed business, everything becomes easier: budgeting, hiring, even your absence.
Revenue, though, is only part of the equation. Income is a better indicator of financial health. Income is the amount you have after you’ve paid your bills and paychecks, including your own. It’s the money you have to hire more people or invest in new systems or expand your business—all of which are important to creating more time, which we’ll talk about below.
The third money piece is cash reserves. This is your rainy day fund; it’s where you go when you have a fluctuation in the economy, when you have to make an unexpected purchase or repair, or when there’s a lag in payments. If you don’t have sufficient cash reserves or you drew down your reserves during the upheaval of the last couple of years, it’s time to bulk back up so the cash is there the next time you need it.
When your business is in strong financial health, it is better able to keep running smoothly if you need to— or want to—take some time away.
Create More Time
I’m not about to perform a miracle here: There are only 24 hours in a day, and that’s all there ever will be. When I talk about creating more time, I’m talking about making better use of the time you do have by:
- Organizing your time
- Delegating effectively
- Building an A-Team of people who perform
The quickest lever to pull with time is making changes to use yours more efficiently and effectively. Start by organizing your space so you can find what you need when you need it. Minimize distractions so you can single-task without interruptions that suck away productivity. I love block timing for this.
Next, look at the kind of work you’re doing. If you spend more than 50% of your time on tasks that keep the doors open, you need to get serious about delegating. As small businesspeople, we’re used to doing things on our own and in our way, but if you want your business to thrive, even during an emergency, you’ve got to stop doing everything yourself.
You can start delegating by getting a virtual assistant or outsourcing tasks like accounting, but the long game is building a team of A players. That means making sure you have the right people in the right positions, that they are trained and empowered to deliver gold-standard service, every time, and that you have processes in place to continue to develop and mentor them.
For more managing time and delegating, read my blog Find Time By Saving Time and listen to my podcast How to Get More Done in Less Time. For more on bringing your best team to the field, check out Finding – and Keeping! – Great People (podcast or blog), my article Creating an Environment for GREAT Things to Happen and my podcast with HR guru Kay Congdon, People, Position, Passion!
Dream About the Life You Want to Live
I’ve talked a lot about emergencies in this article, but let’s put those aside for a minute and talk about vacations. What was the last vacation you took? How long did you go without thinking about work while you were on it? How much of a mess did you come back to?
If you can’t remember when you last took a vacation or you keep putting off your next one, or if you aren’t able to enjoy being away because you’re so worried about what’s going on back at work, you are not living your best life.
Please take a second to stop and think about that: You are not living your best life.
That breaks my heart. Life is full of things we have to do, but it should also be full of things we want to do, the activities and experiences that bring us closer to our family and friends, that fulfill us, that enable us to see what is beautiful and good and fun about this world.
Living our best life is good for our business too. It’s what charges us up, motivates us and helps us bring our best selves to our business. If you don’t believe me, you should know that the most successful businesspeople in the world—from Warren Buffett to Richard Branson to Sheryl Sandberg—emphasize the importance of taking regular time off.
How do you join their ranks?
- You think about what’s important to you and your family, what values you have
- You connect with the dreams and aspirations you have for your life, beyond your business
- You figure out what’s in your way of making those dreams come true
Let me start with that last one. What is in your way of making your dreams come true? It could be that you’re not bringing in enough money to be able to afford your dreams. It could be that you’re so wrapped up in your business that you don’t have time to live your dreams. It could be that you are so stressed and worn out that you don’t have any energy to even make goals and aspirations for your life.
By overcoming those obstacles, you won’t just make yourself happier and healthier. You’ll make your business healthier and stronger, and that will have a positive impact on your employees and your customers. By focusing on what you want out of life and making that happen, you help change the world for others.
Does this seem a little too dreamy or fantastical to be possible? It’s not. I have clients who are living in their dream homes, taking up their dream hobbies, spending more and better time with their families and friends. I have clients who take time off, not just for emergencies but to live their lives. I have a client who just took an entire month off from his business to live his life—and do you know what happened? His business kept going. It kept growing. It continued to provide amazing service to his clients, it signed new customers, and he came back refreshed and ready to meet work toward his next goal.
You can do it, too. You can be ready to be there for yourself and your friends and family when an emergency comes your way. More importantly, you can be ready to be there for your life.
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