I find a recurring theme as I work with business owners is their lack of time to focus on strategic plans and have a reasonable balance with other interests. These executives are often overloaded with tasks that are meant for lower level employees and in an endless cycle of tactical follow-up.
There are three simple steps that any business owner like you can take to begin changing their business and their life.
A simple time analysis of your weekly activities. The first step is developing and implementing a simple time analysis of your weekly activities. Spend a few moments throughout the day listing what you do and how much time these activities occupy. Next, write down very specific goals to change your behavior over a specific time period and start delegating those tasks better suited for others. Part of this plan could include writing specific procedures on how to perform the tasks to be delegated to others, hiring additional staff members to perform the delegated tasks, or training existing staff to perform the delegated tasks. The key is a clearly written delegation plan that you can both execute and measure. It is also important to have an accountability partner in the form of a coach, mentor or trusted staff member who can help track your progress.
Develop an apprentice plan. The next step is to develop an apprenticeship plan or a plan to train others to execute those tasks you determined more suitable for others. A business that scores high in this category will actively coach team members to execute responsibilities with increasing competence, has a system is in place to develop team members and a culture of apprenticeship in place. A business with a low score will have leaders working in isolation from their direct reports with no culture to develop employees. There are really two reasons most leaders never escape the time drain of lower-level tasks: 1) They believe only they can properly execute the tasks and 2) they have tried to empower others but did it improperly, making the situation worse. Your goal should be to identify tasks that do not contribute to your business growth or that you do not enjoy and create a plan to delegate those tasks after an appropriate amount of training is complete. Your apprentice plan should be tracked and documented with an accountability partner until completion to ensure progress.
Design a leadership development plan. The third step is to design a leadership development plan. Specifically, this is a plan to develop your high-potential leaders and incentivize their long-term commitment to your business. An example of a highly developed leadership plan will be one that identifies and develops your high-potential talent and managers and includes a succession plan.
Two other plans that should be designed concurrently with your apprentice plan are your organizational plan and a comprehensive exit strategy
Finally, there are some great tools to help develop your leaders. One of my personal favorites is the Flippen Profile developed by the Flippen Group which can identify leadership constraints such as over-confidence, an inability to nurture, and low self-control. This developmental roadmap should be combined with a performance incentive plan that compensates key leaders in areas such as sales growth and gross profit margins.
Another great resource is John C. Maxwell’s “Developing the Leader in You – 5 Levels of Leadership” This approach fits nicely with the Flippen Profile and can be used to develop a top-tier leadership team to free your time and help you focus on activities that ultimately generate revenue.
To conclude, effective time management for a business owner is a function of delegating, developing and incentivizing. Often the busy entrepreneur has worked hard to develop a successful firm and now should focus on a plan to free time for either growing the business, creating a passive income stream or selling their firm to free them to enjoy the next stage in life.