If your business relies solely on you to get the work done, it can be argued you don’t have a business: you’re self-employed. While that sounds harsh, it simply boils down to how intrinsic you as the owner are to your business.
While it can be challenging for us business owners to step back and let go, that’s precisely what we need to do. Yes, we can do the work – faster and better than anyone else – but that’s not the point. If you want to build something bigger than yourself, that doesn’t grind to a halt when you take a few days off, that gives you the financial and lifestyle rewards you went into business for in the first place, and that you can one day sell for a truckload of money… you need to reduce your businesses’ reliance on you.
There are two main considerations here:
- Most owners list ‘more money’ and ‘more lifestyle freedom’ as the primary reasons they went into business. If your business relies on you to get the work done, it’s a double-whammy: you can’t leverage other people’s time to generate more income, and you can’t go on holiday because the revenue stops when you’re not there.
- I encourage business owners to also take a long term view and look at your business as an asset you can one day sell. Any business that relies on the owner is automatically less attractive to some potential buyers, as they will need to get involved – so it makes financial sense to build a business that doesn’t rely on you so more buyers are interested.
I argue that a truly successful business is one that’s highly sellable (meaning it’s attractive to potential buyers), for two reasons:
To be attractive to buyers, its fundamentals must be sound – great cash flow, fantastic profitability, a growing customer base, and outstanding people following clearly defined processes (these fundamentals also make it a fantastic business to own, and one you’ll want to hang onto for a long time to come).
It doesn’t rely on the current (or future) owner, meaning a new owner could step in and achieve the same results (or better); this also means the current owner (ie you) is not trapped in it, but is free to operate in your genius (or go on holidays).
Obviously, there’s a strong correlation between an awesome business to own and one that’s highly attractive to others. This is what it means to have your cake and sell it too.
But it’s easier than you think to change this, and start building a self-sufficient business; a business that doesn’t rely on you.
4 ways to build a business that doesn’t rely on you
1/ ‘Sell’ mindset
Central to having a long-term view about your business is having a ‘sell mindset’ – it’s not actually about selling your business, but about putting the strategy in place so you can start preparing to one day sell it for top dollar. By definition you’ll build an awesome business that you’ll want to hang onto for as long as possible.
It’s too easy for owners to get sucked into ‘fixing everything’ – while it may be easier in the short term to just do it yourself, it won’t help you move from ‘self-employed’ to building a business that doesn’t rely on you. The key is to master the art of delegation. Communication at all stages – before, during and after the job – is key.
3/ Hire and train
Of course, it’s hard to delegate if you’re the only one that can do the work! Hiring is a scary but necessary part of being a business owner for anyone serious about building a highly sellable business. A three month probation period can help ease the pressure.
All team members require constant training to ensure they can step up and ease the load on you. In my experience, on-the-job training is best. Have someone shadow you as you do delegateable tasks – they may as well learn from the best! The most important part of training is to clearly state what is expected of each team member, and what success (or otherwise) in their role looks like.
4/ Processes and feedback
Break down and clearly define the repeated activities within your business. Get a successful person in that role to write them. And again, give as much ongoing feedback on performance as possible.
Learn how to Have your cake and sell it too.