There are roughly 28 million small businesses in America— 22 million of which are entirely owned and operated by one person.
With so many entrepreneurs out there, we can be sure that there are millions of amazing ideas and countless individuals who are risking it all to see them brought to life. However, it also leaves little doubt about how hard these individuals are working – often doing the work of ten or more people – to keep the trains running on time and their bank balances in the black.
It’s exhausting, and it’s a problem.
All businesses need leadership and vision, but overworked entrepreneurs often get so focused on the day-to-day duties and challenges that they lose sight of what drove them to start their business in the first place. When they’re completely immersed in the grunt work, they ignore the fact that they’re also supposed to be wearing the CEO hat.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned how hard it can be make the transition from employee to CEO. Unfortunately, it’s a pattern I see as I coach forthcoming coaches on how to launch their dream business. They are often too burnt out from building the business to truly appreciate or enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Sometimes, despite the fact that they have finally earned their CEO title, they can’t quite make the mental and emotional leap that comes with promotions. They get stuck in the mentality of an employee, never fully embodying the greatness that inspired them to pursue this dream in the first place.
So how do you become a true CEO and fully embody the best version of yourself in service to your business and clients?
- Delegate. To some extent, all entrepreneurs take on 100% of the work in the early days. However, to truly grow the business, you are going to need help. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire full time employees, but recognizing that certain duties can and should be outsourced to contractors is key to freeing yourself up for the critical tasks that must be handled by you. We live in a freelancer nation, and being able to send them work will brighten your world.
- Always have a pipeline of replacements. Once you’ve committed to outsourcing some of the work, focus on building your “team bench.” Sure, you always want your best players out on the field, but the reality is that good labor will come and go, and the vast majority of entrepreneurs cite finding and hiring good employees as a major challenge to success. Take an inventory of your beliefs — most entrepreneurs default into scarcity mindsets when thinking about their best hires, worrying that no one else can do it quite like they can… The idea that your favorite employee or contractor is “one of a kind” or irreplaceable is simply not true. Always shop around for prices if you’re hiring freelancers, and look at their testimonials. If you’re hiring employees, use references! Also, if you notice yourself heavily relying on one person, slowly introduce a part-time employee (or freelancer) as a back-up to take on any projects that don’t fit on your rockstar’s plate. Make sure you have them create an operations manual… This is a simple way to put your mind at ease and mitigate chaos in the event of an unforeseen transition.
- Ignorance is NOT bliss. Yes, you need to delegate tasks, but it is also your absolute duty to understand the ins and outs of every aspect of your business. Just because you hate technology doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sit down with your tech person for 10 minutes to learn the basics. In a study of entrepreneurs around the world, the most important skills for any entrepreneur were voted on, and the winner for importance was the basic business skills: financial management, marketing, and technology. This ranked even higher than the importance of the business plan!
- Always know your vision. As you change and adapt to new challenges and realities, your vision will change, too. But no one is in charge of knowing where you are going in business like you are. Know that vision. Write it down. Every choice you make should be aligned. Ask yourself: where do I want to be in three years? Then, think: what do I need to accomplish within the next 12 months to be well on my way? Break your tasks down month by month and put them into your calendar as blocks of time (unless you hire someone to handle those tasks for you, of course!) and force yourself to stick to them!
- Strive for mastery. In a world full of people who work day in and day out, many of them don’t take a lot of pride in what they do. Ask yourself, who is an example of someone who strives for mastery? Study what they do, how they work, what their mission is and how they approach the challenge of meeting their objectives. How can you create your own mission and strive for that kind of mastery?
If someone told me years ago that I’d grow up and create a 7 figure coaching business, I’d have laughed in their face! Over the course of my experience as an entrepreneur, I’ve grappled with everything from legal woes to website malfunctions to crippling fear of failure.
But the moment – mentally and emotionally – where I took internal and external leaps to let go of being an employee and accept my role as a true CEO is when I grew into the person I dreamed of being.
If you are feeling bogged down in the day-to-day of your business, take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what you’ve accomplished and what you’re on track to achieve in the future. Maybe it’s not exactly what you envisioned when you started out – maybe there have been challenges along the way that changed the course of your plans… maybe entrepreneurship hasn’t been quite what you expected. But instead of beating yourself up for the unavoidable missteps and learning moments, focus on this question: Would any of the greatness you’ve achieved thus far be possible without your vision?
The answer, of course, is no.
So, here’s my advice from one entrepreneur to another: Don’t spend any more time in the trenches, mentally or metaphorically. It’s time to come on out and give yourself the promotion you deserve.
Own it… or it will own you.
This first appeared in Forbes.