The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: Where Owners Get Stuck
One of the best things about being a business owner is that you don’t have to answer to anyone. Unfortunately, one of the worst things about owning your own event company is, also, that you don’t have to answer to anyone. Why? Because there is no one to stop you from getting in your own way.
When you work for a boss, and she sees you spending too much time on floor plans, which she can have her assistant do, and not enough time on meeting new clients, which is your top priority, she can haul you into her office and set you straight. “I don’t care how much you like doing floor plans,” she says, “the company needs you out in front of clients.”
Event Entrepreneurs Run Amok
But when you’re the boss, there’s no one to call you out and deliver the tough love message. And so, without any oversight, you spend even more time on floor plans than you would with a boss looking over your shoulder. When you wonder at the end of the year why your business didn’t make more money, despite all the successful events and happy clients, there’s a decent chance this is the reason.
Companies that have been successful at breaking into higher and higher levels of growth tend to be very good at policing how they allocate their time, particularly the time of the senior people. Too often, however, owners gravitate to their comfort zone, which is usually not where the company needs them to be.
That’s the Entrepreneur’s Dilemma: the very freedom from having a boss that is so enticing can be the roadblock to your company’s growth.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
How do you get around this? The first step is understanding where the company needs you the most. A good rule of thumb is listing the various tasks that need to be done, and assigning an hourly rate for what you’d have to pay someone on the outside to do that work. You as the owner should be spending the bulk of your time at the highest level tasks, whether it’s sales or design or managing your team. The lower items should be delegated to someone who can do them at a much lower rate.
Having Your Team Hold You Accountable
The next step is acknowledging that many people find it quite hard to police themselves, so you need an outside force. A consultant can help with this, but an often overlooked resource is your own staff. Whether it’s your partner (if you have one) or your assistant, enlist them in your efforts. Tell them, “I need to be focusing on the following areas to best grow the company. If you see me spending time on another area, and you’ve got it under control, let me know, as a polite reminder.”
Sounds goofy? Maybe, but I’ve done it and it works. In the beginning people were hesitant to say anything, but I would catch them fidgeting and ask them what was going on. They’d respond, “Um, you remember when you told us to tell you when you were involved in one of those things that are not on your top priority list, and we should tell you when we have it under control? Well, um, we’ve kind of got this under control.”
There are only so many hours in the day, and before you think about borrowing or raising money to expand, make sure that your time is allocated to the highest possible uses that benefit the company. As strategies for growth go, this is the low-hanging fruit.
This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Howard Givner is the founder and executive director of the Event Leadership Institute. His online course, The Business Accelerator: Taking Your Event Company to the Next Level, begins on April 14.
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