Written by Meredith Lidard Kleeman at Crain’s Baltimore.
When I founded the company seven years ago, I didn’t establish the business systems so that people could join the team and plug and play. Instead, I was having to mentor or teach everyone who came to the organization. While it may be fun to do, it can certainly be very exhausting.
I was not a coffee drinker before I started the business, but I reached two plus cups of coffee a day and had no time to do anything I liked to do. Around that time I went to a meeting with other business owners, and we were all commiserating about how there’s no such thing as work-life balance, it’s work-life blend. I recognized this about myself and realized I needed to change.
Because the business is fairly unique, it takes experience and instinct to serve the client. Once our business verticals became more broad, it would have benefited me and the business to focus more on developing systems, instead of just waking up and running through the jungle all day trying to get everything done, trying to complete all the work that’s on the priority list.
The greatest lesson that I’ve learned is that success is systems driven, not hero driven.
It’s a really important lesson because so many of us try to focus on results, and shoulder a very heavy burden to reach a goal instead of using the resources around us.
If you’re consumed by your business and you’re obsessed with your business in such a way that you never, ever want to let anyone down, that’s a really good quality. But there’s a lot of ways to work within a system so as to meet more people’s needs rather than just relying on your own bandwidth.
As an expert in this field, I would have benefited much more quickly from accelerated growth had I taken the time to invest and teach others, rather than be the expert and carry the business for a number of years. Eventually I did take the time to really work with and teach those around me, so that we were all oriented and moving in the same direction, versus everyone running hard in their own lanes. By making those changes the firm had the ability to handle more clients and more client requests, and I had two of the most important things that a business owner needs to accumulate — time and money.
I think most small business owners are technicians first. It’s not easy to move from being a technician, to managing and then leading a business. Many of us get caught up in performing the work and working in the business instead of on the business. And when you finally reach that point of exhaustion, then you realize that you need to be able to delegate and empower others to do the work and grow. But that only happens when you have sound, adequate systems that can support growth, and particularly the quality with which you want to create output.