The idea of freedom is fundamental to the idea of being an entrepreneur. Think about all the reasons why someone starts a business:
- The opportunity to make more money – especially in the long term
- The opportunity to start keeping more of the money they’re currently making for someone else
- The opportunity to build something that they believe in
- The recognition that there’s no longer an easy fit for them in the corporate world
But on top of all of those great reasons, entrepreneurs are also looking for freedom.
They know they’re going to work a lot of hours, but they appreciate that they’ll get to choose when they work those hours. They look forward to creating the kind of product or experience that they would like to have. And although it’s sometimes scary, they look forward to making the difficult decisions and calling their own shots.
Freedom – like the 4-hour workweek?
Many business owners like to dream about creating that business that throws off a ton of money and basically runs itself. Tim Ferriss did a great job of illustrating that dream with his book The 4 Hour Workweek – and a lot of the ideas in there about automation, systems and effective outsourcing are fantastic.
“Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it and with whom you do it.” – Tim Ferriss
Freedom is definitely a huge motivator when it comes to starting and growing your business.
At least that’s how it starts – unfortunately, as your business grows, it doesn’t always play out the way you want it to …
When I talk with more established business owners, their vision of finding freedom through their business has transformed into a ball and chain. They feel trapped and exhausted by a business that requires their attention all of the time.
Staying late, working from home, being effectively “on call” even when they’re trying to take a few days off and head to the lake – over time it wears them down and they start feeling like they’re being held hostage by their own business.
Where’s the disconnect?
If business owners start out with this vision of freedom but don’t end up that way — what happens? Where do things go off course?
A lot of it boils down to recognizing and understanding the different stages of business maturity and growth.
As a business owner, what you focus on, how you work and what your team looks like will vary dramatically depending on what “maturity stage” your business is in.
And if you don’t make those changes and evolve along with the business, you’ll quickly put yourself into that hostage situation described above.
To put it another way, the work you do to get a business off the ground is very different than what’s needed to scale it to the next stage.
The good news is that once you start to recognize where (and why) some of your challenges exist, there are a lot of things that can be done to start setting you free. Most of the ideas you need to implement aren’t necessarily complicated, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy either.
Here are some general things to consider – the specifics will vary from business to business, depending on the industry you’re in, your personality as the owner and the size of your business – but at a high level these apply to everyone.
3 things to help you generate freedom
You must be able to let go // The single biggest reason most business owners get trapped by their own business is because they can’t let go. They don’t believe anyone else can (or will) do the work they do. They can’t get comfortable with someone else making decisions about their “baby,” and ultimately they’re afraid of having anything notable happen without their involvement. That’s the recipe for a broken business that will never be able to grow.
Things have to be repeatable // If every day is a new adventure within your business, and you or your team are going to great lengths to deliver the products or services your clients want in different ways, you’re going to have problems.
Most of what you do needs to be repeatable – and if at all possible, it should be automated or outsourced. You need really smart people who can creatively solve problems – but you don’t need them focusing on your day-to-day issues; you want them looking at the new opportunities and new ways to grow.
Things need to be simple // Along with being repeatable, the other factor that keeps businesses from scaling is that they’re too complex. They have too many options, too many moving parts, too many things that have to be worried about – and the more volume that gets thrown their way, the worse things get.
The answer is to continually find ways to simplify and streamline the business. Growth (and freedom) comes from finding a few things that your company does very well and doing them better than anyone else. Trying to do too many things or constantly trying to solve difficult challenges will bring you down.
What do you think? Are you feeling free in your business? Is it giving you everything you want or need? Or do you often feel trapped and stuck? If that’s the case, the best time to start addressing that challenge is today!
Shawn Kinkade, Kansas City Business Coach