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Do You Own Your Business, Or Does Your Business Own You?

business goalsI was talking with a business coaching client of ours a short while ago about her business goals.  Her comment to me was, “David, it feels like the business owns me.”

Can you relate?

Have you ever felt like your business owns you and not like you own your business?  It’s been my experience that a lot of business owners feel like they are trapped in the very business they started because they wanted to be in control of their business life.

If this sounds like you – if you’re struggling to own your business, instead of letting it owning you, here are four concrete suggestions to put yourself back in the driver’s seat as you build your business.

Make the Decision to Build a Business, Not a Job

As simple as it seems, most business owners are so caught up in the day-to-day operation of their business that they don’t realize that they are really just building a self-employed job for themselves.

The decision to build a business means that you invest part of your energy in structuring your business so that it is less dependent on you being there.  This means you must build the systems and internal controls that will allow you to sustain your growth over the long term.

Here are 3 tips to start working towards these business goals:

  • Hire an assistant to hand off lower level tasks.  For example, one of our online holiday ornament retailers hired a $4/hour virtual assistant who now handles 60% of the back office administration.  Even a part time helper for 10 hours a week can free up 5+ hours per week of your time to focus on growing and developing the business.
  • Never replace part of your duties with only anther person. Instead, replace yourself with the combination of a person, a written system(s), and a simple control that helps the business know that the person is following the system the right way.  For example, if you’re letting someone else do your shipment of online orders, give them a written process to follow and a final “order checklist” to ensure that all orders are handled and accounted for the right way.
  • Set aside a minimum of one 2-hour block each week to build one system (or part of a system).  Hold this time sacred as it’s too easy to let the day-to-day urgencies tempt you to say you don’t have time to do it.  Make the time to do it – every week.

Focus Your Best Resources on Your Biggest Opportunities

One of the reasons why so many business owners feel like their businesses own them is because they waste resources on too many projects and initiatives all at once.  As a small business owner you can’t afford to do this – concentration of effort to the point of maximal impact is the order of the day.

Don’t be like the husband who starts 17 different home improvement projects at the same time but never finishes any of them.  Instead, focus on those fewer, better opportunities inside your company, and make sure you complete them!

What are your company’s two biggest opportunities?  How can you make sure that at least 5 – 8 hours of your best time each week go towards seizing these opportunities?  The impact you’ll see when you make this shift is amazing.

Take the example of Blake Schwank, owner of Colorado Computer Support.  When we first started working with Blake he was focused on serving customers with 5-10 computer stations.  He was running himself ragged focused on the wrong type of client.  Within 24 months of working together, 75% of his business came from companies with 20 or more computer stations (a segment that he had been ignoring before).  What’s more, he had grown his business by over 300%!

[tweet_dis]attention, and dollars.” quote=”The key is to pick those fewer, better places to invest your limited time, attention, and dollars.”], rather than frittering them away on too many ideas.

Remember, as a business owner commitment to rapid growth, it is not about more, it’s about better.  So focus your best time on your highest value opportunities.

Define Your Business Goals, and How You’ll Get There

If working with thousands of business owner clients over the past 20 years has taught me anything, it’s that the secret to execution lies in clarifying the big picture annually and executing on your plan quarterly.

Let’s let the big picture annual plan go for the moment and just look at your next three months.

Three months is the perfect unit of time to translate your big picture vision into a concrete, actionable plan that you can execute on.  I strongly suggest that you reduce that three-month action plan into a one-page document that you can share with your team.  Not only will this help them be more focused on what your fewer, better things to focus on as a company are, but having this rolling 90-day plan of action will help you with my next suggestion (more in a moment).

If this sounds intimidating, don’t let it stop you.  Simply ask yourself: what three things do you think your business most needs to focus on over the next 90 days?

Write your answer down.

Perhaps you need to focus on upgrading your shopping cart, or on building an email drip campaign to follow up on all online lead inquiries, or on drafting your fulfillment system so you can train a part time helper to come in for 3 hours each day to do your order fulfillment.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Once you’ve got your three focus areas identified, write down the 5-7 action steps or milestones to do each one.” quote=”Once you’ve got your three focus areas identified, write down the 5-7 action steps or milestones to do each one.”]

These 3 focus areas with the 5-7 action steps or milestones for each is your 1 page action plan for the next three months.  We’ve seen our clients grow at an average annual growth rate of over 32% simply by breaking their efforts down into a series of rolling 90-day “sprints”.  This ensures you don’t let the day-to-day business activities rule the roost, and it also is flexible enough that you can make fast adjustments as you go.

Clear Accountability For Your Business Goals Is Essential

While the quarter is the perfect unit of time to translate a big picture vision into a tangible action plan, you still need weekly accountability to make sure that you are actually doing the plan you have created to get the results that you want.

So many people think “discipline” is all about will power.  That’s nonsense.  Willpower may win a sprint, but it will always lose a marathon.  And let’s be clear – building a successful company is not a sprint, it’s a marathon!

My years as an Olympic level athlete taught me that discipline is about two things – environment and accountability.

Environment for you the business owner includes things like the peer group you spend time with – is it made up of other successful business owners who – like you – are committed to growing their businesses?  And your office environment – does it support the company you want to create?  Do you need to work from an alternate location for half a day each week to get the focused time you need to execute on your action plan?

The other key component to getting stuff done is accountability. Who do you have in your business life that holds you accountable?  Is this working to effectively keep you doing those things that matter most for your business, even in the face of those things that cry out the loudest and most urgently for you to do instead?

That’s why we check in with our business coaching clients weekly to make sure that they are on track with their key deliverables.  If not, we are able to quickly get them back on track.

Ready to Own Your Business?

As entrepreneurs and small business owners, there are always more tasks to do in a day than there is time to do them. However, if you don’t take time to build systems and develop goals, your business will end up owning you. The good news is that, once you shift focus towards owning your business, you’ll have a lot more freedom and flexibility to pursue even more interesting opportunities.

So how about you?  Are you game to follow these suggestions to build your business?  I certainly hope so because when you do you’ll be building a business you love again! Leave a comment below detailing how you’re going to get started.

About David Finkel

David Finkel is co-author of, SCALE: 7 Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, along with 11 other business books. He is also the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind®, one of the world's premier business coaching companies who helps businesses in the $1-20 million range build their companies to sell, scale, or own passively.

11 thoughts on “Do You Own Your Business, Or Does Your Business Own You?

  1. Hi David! This is an extremely useful article to me as I see my October publishing deadline zooming ever closer and the pile of jobs to accomplish this getting ever higher. I’ve just made my list of three things to focus on:
    1. Publish The Loyalist’s Luck.
    2. Write and send a fantastic newsletter to my followers in August.
    3. Plan and implement my online marketing for this new release.
    Whoa! Those are pretty big steps but listing them helps me focus my efforts. The next thing is to expand each one with smaller steps I still have to do. Heading for my iPad right now.
    BTW thanks for the shot in the arm! Elaine Cougler

  2. Thanks, David. The three things I want to focus on: 1) Guest posting on other blogs to expand my subscribers, 2) Create a new free offer, 3) Tweak my landing page with my new free offer. This was so helpful!

  3. Hi David,

    Awesome man. My goal has always been to build an internet lifestyle. Sure, I build a blogging and freelance business too but I’ve built these businesses around my lifestyle, which is why I’m traveling the world for 39 months.

    I love each tip, especially the idea of finding systems. I use tools to automate many processes, freeing up 2 to 3 hours of my work each day. I also got super clear on my niche and business tasks a few weeks back when I started my blog.

    My outreach campaign focuses on connecting with leaders. I no longer try to meet as many people as possible. I form beneficial friendships with as many top shelf, expert, authorities as possible. This helps both parties to expand each other’s presence quickly.

    Also, I no longer publish short posts multiple times daily. Now it’s about posting 3 times weekly writing an in-depth, helpful, authoritative resource to help as many folks as possible.

    When you think things through, and decide to own your business, you’ll never feel owned by your business again. The key is to be critical, thinking-wise, seeing where you’re wasting time and where you can hire people or use tools to delegate tasks.

    Now I’m just using tools. The job is getting done. In the future, I’ll likely be hiring people to handle less manual tasks that will free up my schedule, helping me devote my creative energies to what I do best….and helping me have a life.

    Thanks David, super message here.

    I’ll tweet this shortly.


  4. Hi David
    Great post – made me stop and focus on why I spend so much time writing blog posts and dealing with Twitter but don’t feel I’m getting anywhere. I need to look at the big picture – I’ve got some serious thinking to do.

    Just one point – shame about the spelling mistakes. Spoils the professional look when there are mistakes.

  5. You’re right Kshitji, things aren’t always so clear.

    I find for me that if i am moving forward even if not on the perfect course of action, it is much easier to get clear while i’m in motion versus stuck in indecision.

    I hope this helps,


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