When you first started your business, what was your dream? Was it working at the office until midnight regularly, rushing from meeting to meeting, and putting out fires every week? I’d bet it wasn’t. I bet you imagined working hard on something you love and eventually being able to take a back seat and let the business work for you. If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you’re driven not only by your desire for success and your ambition, but also by hoping to gain more freedom in your life in the future.
Making the shift from working in your business to working on your business and letting your business work for you can be a real challenge for many entrepreneurs. After all, you’re more invested (both monetarily and emotionally) than anyone else is, and it can be hard to give up control over many things. But what if I told you your business could actually benefit from you stepping back and taking a less hands-on role in the day-to-day operations?
The reality is that, out of everyone in your business, your time is the most valuable. You’re the only one able to make high-level decisions and drive the creative direction of your company. The more time you spend taking care of tasks that could be handled by someone else, the less time you have to do creative work and other important tasks that only you can accomplish. And chances are, when you calculate what your hourly rate is, it actually costs your business more for you to do those tasks than it would for any of your employees or contractors to perform the same task.
In his book Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself, Mike Michalowicz describes his method, called the clockwork principle. He argues that your time is most valuable working on your business rather than in your business. By designing your business to run itself, like clockwork, without the need for your hand in daily tasks, you can increase your profits and live the life you want to live. When Michalowicz felt he had his business running “like clockwork,” he tested it by taking a month-long vacation, and true enough, everything ran smoothly without him.
Imagine the freedom to take a month-long vacation without worrying about a crisis arising with your business while you were gone? To many entrepreneurs, it sounds too good to be true. But it’s simply a matter of structuring your business and training your leaders to operate independently, and it’s key to your company’s growth. If you didn’t have to spend so much time in the nitty-gritty daily work, what could you accomplish?
One of the key aspects of the clockwork principle is for you to identify your “queen bee role.” What is the most important task that you’re responsible for? What do you do best that no one else can do, and that brings the most value to your company? Once you’ve identified that role, take everything else on your list and assign it to someone else. You can also help your team members identify their own “queen bee” roles—their most important tasks that bring the most value to the business. If you structure your company around everyone’s most vital role or roles so that each individual is focused on their most important tasks and understands how their role brings value, it’s much easier for your team to lead themselves.
A big part of stepping back in your leadership role is to encourage collaborative leadership in every aspect of your business. Make every team member a leader. Help them understand what their most important tasks are and how those fit into the greater success of the business. Then give them the responsibility to own those tasks, make decisions, and solve problems at the level they arise.
A strategy that can be extremely beneficial is to assemble teams to take on new projects or initiatives based on skills and aptitudes rather than assigning projects to existing teams. The same goes for roles—by being willing to adapt roles based on the skills of your team members, your employees will be better able to focus on their most important tasks and exercise their best skills. For example, if you have a team member who does a variety of tasks but is particularly skilled in customer communications, shifting that role to focus primarily on customer communications maximizes value and allows focus on where the most value and passion exists.
With this type of business structure, your leadership team can take on a role of support, monitoring teams to help them solve problems, keep them accountable, and celebrate their successes. When everyone understands clearly what their goals are and how their role fits into the larger picture, and they are given responsibility to make decisions and solve problems, they are empowered to do their best work and lead themselves.
As you take a step back in your leadership and begin to experience the freedom of letting your business run the way you’ve set it up to run, you’ll find renewed energy to create new initiatives and enact your best ideas, ultimately resulting in greater profits as you spend more time working on your business rather than in it. Your time is valuable—what could you do with more of it? Start today by identifying what you do that no one else in your company can do, then begin to assign your other tasks to your team members. Empower them to step up to the responsibility, and let your business work for you.