I’ve talked to a lot of business owners lately who are working crazy long hours. In some cases, it’s because they’re in early growth mode and they don’t have much choice. But most of them are unfortunately buying into some really destructive myths (or lies), and it’s hurting their business growth opportunities. Not to mention making their lives a lot harder than they have to be.
Why are they working so many hours? If you press them on how they’re spending their time, they are doing a lot of administrative and busywork and/or operational work that could be done by someone else. They have options (employees, outsourced help) but they are choosing to do the work themselves.
Dig just a little deeper, and you’ll find there are a handful of reasons why these business owners are acting this way. Check these out and see if any of them resonate with you.
1. It’s easier to just do that work myself.
Here’s the thought process: “It will take me X hours to do that work, but if I have to train someone else to do it, it will take 2X, 3X or maybe even 4X hours. It’s just easier to do it myself.”
They may actually be correct about how much time it will take to get someone else to learn how to do this work—but it’s a destructive myth because it ignores simple math. If this is a chore that has to be done every week or even every month, then it won’t take long for that training investment to pay off in a big way. Let’s say it’s a weekly task that takes the owners two hours to do themselves but takes them six hours to train someone else. In a month, they will have already started saving significant time.
2. If I do the work, it’s “free.”
A lot of business owners hold the destructive belief that their time doesn’t count, so anytime they can some extra work it’s a “bonus” for the business because it’s free. The reality is that the business owner’s time should be the MOST expensive time in the company. The owner, especially with a small business, is the only person who can do the most valuable tasks: strategic planning, larger sales, and identifying and resolving the big problems.
There’s a huge opportunity cost for trading your time away to do work that others can easily do. And besides, you should be paying yourself an actual salary. Your time shouldn’t be free.
3. Nobody is as good as I am.
This one is probably true. You are the person who’s successfully created a business. But you can’t operate with this belief if you want to grow. There are only so many hours in the day, and if no one else can do the work, then you are never going to grow—end of story.
The reality is that if someone else can do the work at even 80 percent of your level, then you need to let them do that. Your job as the business owner is to train others and make them better, create better systems and processes—not to do the work. That’s what it will take to grow.
4. Busy = productive.
A lot of business owners (and people in general) believe that the busier you are, the more productive you are. There’s a certain ‘rush” to being in firefighting mode, just on the edge of panic where you spend your days running around, yelling at people and scrambling to get things done.
The true mark of a healthy business is when the owner has time to think, to get away from everything for hours or days at a time and is able to focus on the big picture—what’s going to be needed for next year’s growth, not what’s needed to survive through tomorrow.
5. I have to work harder than everyone else.
This one is admirable but misplaced. It’s a great idea to lead by example, and there will be times when you need to get into the trenches and make things happen. But if that’s your everyday reality—if you are doing all of the work, just like one of your employees and you’re also going to lead and manage everyone—then you’re not going to make it.
Your work as the owner is all about leading, managing, planning and communicating. It’s a different kind of work from your employees’, but it’s the work you must be doing. It may not be as physically demanding, or you may not be dealing with customers directly any more, but it’s the important work that only you can do.
Ultimately, the purpose of your business is to get you what you want out of life—which probably isn’t a 70-hour workweek—so start figuring out now how to work yourself out of a job and truly move into “ownership” mode.