How to Avoid the Great Entrepreneurial Trap

You can't afford not to hire rock stars.

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I hear it in just about every conversation I have with business owners. Heck, I even battle with it daily in my own business. There are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Several years ago, as I was about to drown in a sea of overwhelm, I stepped back, took a hard look at my business and my life then asked myself, "How on earth did I get to this point?" What I found was I had fallen victim to something I've come to call "The Great Entrepreneurial Trap."

Most business owners have no choice but to take on every role in their business when they start. Budgets are tight and, if the work is going to get done, they have to be the ones to do it. Yet, as their businesses grow and they hire people to help, they don't relinquish control. Nobody can do the job as well as they can. So, they take the approach of using their employees as extra sets of hands. Basically, the business owner becomes an adept puppet master — or so they think.

What really happens, though, is they make themselves the bottleneck in every core process in their business. The end result: The more customers they add, the longer their workday becomes. Soon, they find themselves completely overwhelmed. They cannot grow their business any further and struggle just to maintain the customers they already have. This is the essence of "The Great Entrepreneurial Trap."

As I struggled to get my business and my life back under control, I developed three simple (not easy) tactics for breaking out of this trap.

Fire Yourself From a Job Every Day

You heard me right. You need to start firing yourself from jobs every single day. You will never have the time to focus on growing your business and actually having a home life if you don't get some of your responsibilities off your plate.

I keep a notepad on my desk that is dedicated to documenting jobs only I can do. For each of these jobs, I find one or two capable employees and teach them how to do the job. Then, I trust them to do it. Trusting them to do the job is by far the hardest part of this tactic. But it is critical, and the more frequently you practice it, the easier it gets. By empowering your employees, you are not only getting tasks off your plate, but you are also helping your employees grow and thrive in your business. And, who knows, they may be even better at the job than you.

Hire Rock Stars

That last thought brings me to the next tactic: Hire employees who are smarter than you and are the rock stars in their field. Now, I'm sure many of you are like I was in the early days of my business. You are thinking, "I can't afford to hire rock stars." Honestly, you can't afford not to hire rock stars. Average employees yield average results. Conversely, exceptional employees yield exceptional results and will indeed be able to surpass your abilities in their assigned jobs because they get to focus their energy on what it is they do best. A rock star employee will likely generate returns that far exceed their costs.

Use Goals to Achieve Your Dreams

Once you start removing responsibilities from your plate, you will find you have time to focus on true high-value activities, such as deciding what you want to accomplish in both your business and your life. I am a huge proponent of goal setting and teach this to the entrepreneurs I coach each week. I have people start with what Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, called a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). That is your big-target goal set for years in the future. For me, it was to have a $20-million IT services firm within the next 10 years. Once that future goal is set, you need to set intermediate goals that are five, three and one year out — all of which work to get you to your BHAG. Finally, your one-year goal (the most specific and immediately actionable goal) should be broken down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and, ultimately, daily goals that help you continuously move toward your end goal. Waking up each day knowing exactly what you need to do to move one step closer to your dream is truly empowering.

These three tactics are very simple, but in no way easy to implement. Entrepreneurs are wired to "get things done." Delegating and planning are concepts that don't come easy to most of us. However, I have proven that, when practiced religiously, these three tactics can make a huge impact on your business and your life. I started this journey to gain control of my business and my life in 2018, when my company was barely breaking $500,000 in annual revenue. That year, I set a BHAG to grow my business to a $20-million company within the next 10 years and to have that business be able to run without me. We finished 2021 with $12.3 million in revenue and are on track to break $20 million by the end of 2022, five years ahead of schedule. And, over the past three years, on average, I've taken six weeks off to spend time with my family and do things I enjoy — and the business continued to thrive while I was out.

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