Business owners and managers alike are busier than ever these days. As their businesses grow and become more complex, they find that they don’t have the time to be all things to all people, as much as they would like to. In the early stages of a business, the owner or manager might service the customers, do the buying, collect on past due accounts and supervise just about everyone on staff. That model of management and operations is just not sustainable, even for the most talented of businesspeople.
At each stage of business growth, managers must learn to discipline themselves to delegate more and more activities, and personally perform fewer and fewer job functions to give them time to think and plan. This is not easy. After all, the business is their baby.
They gave birth to it and have nurtured it to this point, so trusting someone else to assume accountability for key jobs can often feel a lot like a form of separation anxiety. The more they truly care about their business, the harder it can be to let some tasks be done by others within the company.
The problem in life is that our time here is too short to be good at a number of different things. Even fewer are the number of things we can be great at. How many things are you really good at? Great at? If you’re great at sales, odds are you are not terrific at collecting. If you’re entrepreneurial, odds are that you’re not attentive enough to detail to be really good at administrative tasks. And so on. We see these traits (and lack of traits) in others and ourselves.
An observation I have made from performing more than a hundred consulting assignments in our industry is that most owners, managers, and salespeople are quite good at the things that they’re the most passionate about.
If managers are passionate about profitability, I’ve noticed that they almost always generate an optimal bottom line. If salespeople are passionate about new business, they bring a lot of new customers. Or if they are passionate about producing above-average gross margins, they find a way to effectively deal with pricing issues.
When executives and salespeople are passionate about golf, tennis, travel, community, or church-related activities, they tend to excel in those areas, and sometimes to the detriment of their accountabilities on the job.
If you are serious about excelling at something—at anything— the main question you might ask yourself is, “Where does my passion really lie?”
I have one client who is extremely passionate about two things: his business and his family. He spends the great majority of his waking hours dedicated to these two passions, and he has learned to balance them really well.
Like many executives in our industry, he often puts in 10- to 12-hour workdays. But still, he rarely misses any of his kid’s activities. Whenever possible, he manages his business appointments around his family and their scheduling needs. On several occasions, I have heard him make appointments around hockey games, school plays, Little League baseball games, and so on.
But when it comes to business, he is incredibly passionate about earning a satisfactory return on his investment. To show you just how profitable he has been, over the past five years, he has funded the assets required to support a substantial sales increase—well in excess of 20% compounded annual growth—out of internally generated profits. That is quite an accomplishment, to say the least.
In each of the years I have worked with this entrepreneur, he has asked me to recommend several pro-oriented lumberyards that I believe do an overall better job than he does. He runs such a good operation that each year this is a tough assignment, but he insisted, and he always budgeted the travel time to visit these successful lumberyards in order to gain exposure to highly profitable businesses.
“I want to visit operations that can teach me a better and more profitable way to service our customers,” he always says. Throughout his visits to other successful businesses, he has learned to concentrate primarily on what he loves to do—which in most people’s case is what you do best—and to delegate the rest.