Business Owners: Are you your business’s greatest liability?

Imagine sitting on a tropical far off beach, with umbrella drink in hand while your bank account steadily grows, or owning several thriving businesses and working on multiple passion projects that truly inspire you to jump out of bed each day. Swapping the safe but sometimes suffocating 9-5 corporate life for the promise of ultimate freedom and the chance to be the boss is the dream of an untold number of Australian small and mid-sized business owners. The reality for most however is different from the post card.

Many Australian business owners start their own business to become free, but somewhere along the way they become trapped in a perfect prison of their own making – their own business. Many work superhuman hours, 6-7 days a week, and can’t even remember the last time they took a proper holiday. If this sounds like you, your business is in serious trouble because you are undoubtedly and equally your business biggest asset, and it’s Achilles-heel.

Since when was being committed a bad thing?

While at the outset a highly committed business owner may seem like a good thing, if a business is over reliant on an owner’s input for its success it will ultimately face severe limitations regarding viability and scalability.

Firstly, regarding viability, many small to mid-sized businesses have grown to become the success stories that they are today based on the passion, perseverance, and perfectionism of their owners. These business owners have gone to extraordinary lengths to exceed the expectations of their clients or customers in order to grow their business. This system relies on the blood sweat and tears of the business owner, and as we know, a bad system will beat a good person every time. Remove the owner from the equation and the business falls over – everybody gets sick sometimes.

Now consider scalability, if a business is overly reliant on the owner, trying to scale is fighting against the laws of physics because time and energy are finite. If the business is overly reliant on the owner’s contribution, it will only grow to the size that the owners time and energy allow.

Avoiding the trap 

While the trap is easy to fall into, many business owners manage to avoid it through facing up to the myth that stepping back from a business is giving away control. They face their biggest fear – that their business will fail without them. They prove that their business can function (and thrive) by design in their absence, not in spite of it. They take their lives back and take control of their businesses in 5 ways:

  1. They Create Clarity: Business owners who can successfully step back create clarity through ensuring that relevant business metrics and customer feedback is collated into an easily understood dashboard. This allows them to see at a glance how the business is performing and to only intervene when necessary.
  2. They Create Structure: Business owners who can successfully step back create structure by clarifying roles within the business and the decision making power afforded to each role. Through doing this the owner empowers staff and removes themselves as a bottleneck when most decisions need to be made.
  3. They Invest in and Reward their Staff: Business owners who can successfully step back create clear succession plans and invest in the development of the next layer of leaders within the business. When these staff take on extra responsibility they are remunerated appropriately building up feelings that they are taking on ownership of the business.
  4. They Invest in themselves: Business owners who can successfully step back know that their technical skills probably helped build the business but their people leadership skills will help grow the business. They invest their time and energy into learning how to be better leaders through reading, training courses, and intentional practice.
  5. They Take small steps: Business owners who can successfully step back don’t do it all at once, they see stepping back as a gradual process that needs to be carefully planned for. Rather than taking months off at a time they may initially take a mini holiday (three or four days away) and then assess how their absence affected the business.

As a business owner do you run your business or does it run you? What other tips do you have to help ensure that you don’t become your businesses greatest liability?

If you’re a business owner, HR Business Direction can help you build structures and strategies that will allow you to step back, your business to thrive, and for you to get your life back.

Alistair Kerr, MPsychOrg; PostGradDip Psych; BPsych
Organisaitonal Development Strategist | Psychologist
07 3890 2066

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