How Small Business Owners Break the Cycle of Constantly Doing the Work (Part 2 of 3)
People tend to stick with something they've invested a lot of time or money in, even when it's not working out. This is called the sunk cost effect. For example, an investor might buy a stock they hope will increase in value. But if the stock goes down, they might invest more money into it instead of selling it, hoping it will eventually increase in price. If it goes down again, they may invest even more money into it, hoping things turn around.
After all the time and effort you put into perfecting your business processes, it's understandable that you would want to stick with them. But let's remember the bigger picture - if that process isn't serving your business anymore, it's time to reassess and make changes.
If you watched my last video and did the homework, great job completing the Time Analysis and coming up with your D-Work Mix! Now, let's take things up a notch and focus on optimizing the D-Work Mix and integrating the delivery of your Big Promise by serving the QBR through the trash, transfer, trim, and treasure process. It's a simple process; look at your tasks and ask yourself if they're serving the QBR or your Primary Job. If they're not, it's time to trash, transfer, trim, or treasure them. We're not looking to shift the workload to someone else on the team but rather to reduce the overall cost and improve our results. I'm excited to see the amazing results you’ll achieve!
If the person or people serving your QBR seem to be spending too much time on things other than serving the QBR, they may be doing some things they don’t need to do. Similarly, your other team members may be spending too much time on other tasks, which could be better used to protect the QBR and do their Primary Jobs.
This simple exercise will help you and your team clearly see how much you focus on serving or protecting the QBR and how much you are distracted by other tasks. Once you know this, you can decide which tasks need to be offloaded to someone else, which tasks need to be automated, and which tasks need to be eliminated altogether.
Start by returning to the Time Analysis sheet you created for everyone on your team. Highlight the work done during that period that directly served the QBR and then highlight the work done on the Primary Job if that person’s role is not in service of the QBR. Add up the highlighted times and compare that to the total work time. You can get the percentage by dividing the highlighted times by the total work time.
I recommend analyzing yourself first. Then, do this exercise for each person who is or should be serving the QBR (including yourself). Finally, do it for the rest of your team, where the highlighted work is their Primary Job. Let’s get started.
The first step is to evaluate each task and determine whether you can trash it. Ask yourself, “Does it support a necessary objective of the business? Does it add measurable value to my customers or my team?” You see, only some things are necessary in a business. In fact, many tasks that may have been necessary previously are no longer required, but they hang around because “that is what we’ve always done.” Trash the things that are not necessary. And if you are unsure, stop it for some time to see if there are negative consequences. If there are no negative consequences, then it is not needed. Trash it.
Next, look for ways to transfer work to other people or systems that will free you and your skilled team members to take on bigger, more challenging tasks. Transfer work down to the most inexpensive resources and empower the new owner(s) of the task to achieve the intended outcome more efficiently.
As you transfer work away, you will see that less skilled tasks are the first ones to be transferred. This typically means you can employ less expensive people, including part-timers, freelancers, vendors, or contractors for that work. The goal is to have a few expensive, skilled team members focused almost exclusively on doing the most skilled work and transferring all the other necessary but easy, repetitive tasks down the skills chain. That’s a streamlined business. And that is precisely what this exercise supports.
Step three is to evaluate how each task can be trimmed. Often, a task can be trimmed if it can’t be trashed. Take some time and research each task, asking yourself, “Can this task be done faster or more easily? Can the costs and time associated with this task be reduced?” Look for ways to reduce the time and cost of completing each task while achieving the required results.
The fourth step is treasure. Keep the few select tasks or responsibilities that are important to you because you love them. These treasure tasks are the work that fuels you and makes you excited to go into the store. We don’t want to trade joy for organizational efficiency.
To Hire or not?
What do you do if you encounter transferable tasks without anyone to transfer them to? That is often a signal to hire if you have the resources available, and this becomes the foundation of the job description.
As small business owners, we often say we need to clone ourselves. But that is impossible. The goal should be finding competent people who share your mission and values. This is why it is essential to really understand your why and then communicate it frequently to your team.
The many tasks required to operate a profitable quilt shop require a wide range of skills, from sales and marketing to inventory management and bookkeeping. To ensure you find the right new team member, conduct half a dozen or so interviews with each candidate over the course of a few months. Include current team members in some of the interviews to see how the potential candidate and team members interact; this will also give you another person's point of view.
Hiring and training team members is one of the most expensive parts of operating a business. It is cheaper to take your time to find and hire the right team members than to hire quickly and often.
To make sure you can afford a new hire, set aside three months of the new hire’s estimated pay, and if you do not have to use it in the business, then you can afford to hire a new team member (and you have added more to your emergency fund).
You probably will not be able to transfer everything immediately, and you won’t want to. Start small with only a few tasks. Take the time to train your team members on this new-to-them task. Once they have shown competence in doing the task, you can transfer them another task. The more complex or higher skill-based the task, the more time it will take to train them properly. Remember, you want to train and empower them to achieve the required results.
What do you do if you are the only one serving the QBR? You get more people serving the QBR. This is easier said than done, but it is still relatively easy.
After you have completed your Time Analysis and have identified the tasks that you are going to trash, transfer, or trim. You need to do that. Stop doing things that are wasting time. Start transferring one task at a time. Depending on the number of tasks you and your team have to transfer, this could take a few months to a year or more. Start with the simplest tasks first, then work up to higher-skilled tasks. And finally, evaluate how to trim each task without compromising the required result.
To fulfill your Big Promise to your customers, you want as many people and systems serving the QBR as possible. This means transferring QBR-related tasks off your plate. You need to train your team. You should frequently meet, at least every couple of weeks, with each of your direct reports and those taking on the new QBR-related task and train them on how to do it. Empower them and give them a little latitude.
Mistakes are inevitable. You have made mistakes, but you learned from them. And your team needs the opportunity to learn from them as well. Teach them how and why certain things are the way they are, and encourage them to ownership of the task and make it more efficient. Micro-managing is called training as long as it doesn’t continue longer than is needed. Remember, we want to delegate tasks, not just become the decision-maker. You can create a very efficient and profitable quilt shop by delegating outcomes and empowering your team.
One of the very best ways is to create KRAs or Key Results Areas for each member of your team, including yourself. We have discussed this in a previous blog, so I won’t go into the details here. Go read that blog. But a KRA is one of the most powerful tools to manage your team effectively and efficiently.
This blog series aims to show you how to scale your business. You are welcome to work in your quilt shop, but only when you are not needed. That is the catch. We need to free the business from dependency on you, the owner, or any individual, for that matter. As a business owner, you may vote for yourself to still do the work that gives you joy, as long as you are not necessary for the company’s health and efficiency.
To recap, you must review your teams’ Time Analysis and label each activity with trash, transfer, trim, or treasure. And then follow through on actually doing the next required action. I highly recommend that you do this activity annually.
Email me, what task you are transferring and why. firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you.