One of the hardest things a business owner has to do is loosen their grip on aspects of their company. When you are starting out, you do everything out of necessity. If you need business cards, you design them. If you need your books done, you do them… But the truth is, if you aren’t a designer you probably have shitty looking business cards. And if you aren’t a bookkeeper, you probably have shitty books.
It took us a long time to correct our first few years of neglecting our bookkeeping. Once we starting doing it correctly, I had to collect physical copies of pervious years bank and credit card records and manually enter them into Quickbooks. It took me over a month and when it was done we discovered we had missed so much and had been overpaying on our taxes! Not only would we have been happy to have saved that money, but if we would have had that capital to reinvest we could have grown our business much more quickly.
Once those mistakes were corrected, we were able to completely give that aspect of the business to someone better equipped to handle it. I know so many business owners that work as hard as they can to make sales and then throw it all away on the other end (like I used to) with poor accounting.
My wife and I had our first child in October. To get our business ready for this event, we implemented some huge changes. We added an assistant manager to our roster, hired some additional part time help and made sure the entire staff was as prepared as possible for the change in availability. For almost eight years until October 27th, 2014 at least one of us has been in the store 6-7 days a week. Transitioning from an arrangement where the owners are almost always there, to (for a time) almost never there, is a scary proposition.
The great news is, it worked fine! In fact it worked so well that when I returned to my normal schedule I kept hearing the same phrase from both managers; “you can leave.” I think it’s probably pretty close to the feeling parents get the first time their kid genuinely beats them at something they are good at. You are proud that your business and its stewards are so autonomous, yet the realization that you aren’t needed in the same way you were can sting.
Some of the best advice I have heard regarding growth and hiring goes something like this; take an extended vacation (or paternity/maternity leave) from the business and when you come back you will know what positions you need to fill. It makes sense, right? If you come back and sales are good and your books are up to date but the bathrooms are dirty and office supplies are low you need someone who can clean the bathrooms and order office supplies.
As an owner/operator following this advice, hopefully you will be able to see some of the things you are passionate about (probably not cleaning the bathrooms or office supplies) as missing and some of the tasks you are less passionate about as under control. I am passionate about buying, product development and big ideas to move the company forward. I am not great at sales, organization or tidiness. But when I came back the things I suck at were doing fine, so I discovered I was finally freed up to do pursue my real interests.
Most of us who start businesses do so because we care deeply about something, but we get too bogged down with the operations side of things to stay connected to the reason we started. I have finally been able to fully refocus my attention on my strengths and hand over the reigns of my weaknesses to other people in my organization. Like our bookkeeping, I probably could have done this years earlier. So go take a vacation, discover the holes in your organization, and rediscover your passions at your business!