In an interesting report on small business, Wayne Rivers admonishes entrepreneurs to stop working so hard. He says the worst advice he ever received was to work hard for long hours. I agree for reasons both business and personal.
The personal part is easy: Family, health, and relationships suffer when a business owner seemingly does nothing but work, work and more work. I’m in agreement – balancing work with personal life. However, I suspect that alone won’t stop many hard-working entrepreneurs from putting in the hours. After all, most believe they must do so. I suggest there are also business reasons for calling a halt to the 60-, 80-, 100-hour work weeks.
That kind of schedule is demanding – physically and mentally. No one can be sharp while combating severe fatigue. I suspect that reason also won’t deter many hard-charging entrepreneurs. Demands on their time seem endless, and putting in the hours is the only way to get things done.
Let’s examine that mindset.
I have yet to see the person putting in long hours who was working exclusively on matters that demanded their sole attention. Many, in some cases most, of the items could be handled quite well by others who are properly trained. By another name, this problem is known as failure or inability to delegate. If the owner’s time is worth $50/hour (and I hope it is worth at least that amount), how can it make good business sense to do tasks that could be handled by employees earning $15 or $20/hour?
So why do people fail to delegate?
A common reason given is that others won’t do it as well or as quickly as the owner. That reason is an indictment of the firm’s failure to hire and train effectively. Not only will a competent employee be able to learn, they will be motivated by the trust and authority granted them. Really, are you as good at composing ad copy, laying out a Web page or repairing equipment as the people who are trained and do that work regularly?
Following on the heels of the “others won’t do it as well” excuse is, “I’m afraid they will make a mistake.” They probably will, especially if they are not well-trained. I have yet to meet the owner who has never made a mistake. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, when asked about a mistake made by an officer under his command, remarked. “I told him to forget it, that I allowed all my subordinates to make one mistake a year. I make all the rest.”
Let’s move to reasons for not working so hard that combine both business and personal elements. Time spent working in the business reduces the time available to work on the business. Planning, dreaming, managing and developing the business get shoved to the side. You don’t have a business; you have a personality that depends on you to make it go. You can’t get sick or take much time off because your employees are not prepared to step up in your absence.
Perhaps worst of all, your business has limited value. Who wants to buy a business that requires them to sacrifice their life?
It really is time to start working smarter rather than harder.
Bowser@BusinessValueInsights.com. Dan Bowser is president of Value Insights, Inc. of Durango, Chandler, Arizona, and Summerville, Pennsylvania.