I’d like to share two stories about small business owners. One is about managing your business the other is about being managed by the business.

A Tale About My Dad

My father worked in the grocery business for more than 50 years. He began as a stock boy in the late 1940’s and worked his way up to managing a supermarket. Later he represented a flour processing company, and eventually, he became a district manager for a grocery chain. Next, he bought a store. Clark Foods was a seven day a week 7 am until 11 pm convenient mart. At first, my father worked every hour. However, he hired, trained, and delegated eventually building a staff he trusted. Five years later his daily routine was to open the store, complete paperwork, and assign tasks, and then he spent the afternoons on the golf course. He returned in the evening to follow up on the day’s business and tasks. Life was good. He was managing the business. It wasn’t the other way around.

Uncle Paul’s Story

My Uncle Paul bought a trailer park. Paul was handy. He grew up on a farm and learned to fix almost anything. Although he worked full time as a meat cutter, he maintained a small family farm. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Aunt Betty’s and Uncle Paul’s farm. I can still remember riding on his orange 1950’s Allis-Chalmers tractor. After they had bought the trailer park, they had little time for the family farm or their beloved cabin on the Wabash River. Uncle Paul and Aunt Betty tried to do it all from maintenance to collections. Eventually, they sold the business. It was managing them.

Are Your Being Managed by Your Business?

Are there not enough hours in the day? Do you bring your stress home? Do friends, family, and hobbies take a backseat? If so, there’s a way out. It begins by admitting your business is managing you, and your life is out of balance. The good news is you can start managing your business today. Here are a few suggestions to get started.

Turn Off

Set hours to get away, make them known, and then turn off your phone and devices. Right now many of you are thinking this is impossible, you’d miss a communication from a customer, or your employees wouldn’t know what to do! That’s a training issue, remember my father’s story. Years ago I was at my friend, mentor, and manager’s home. Joe was VP, and I was the district manager. It was after 9 pm when he received a call from one of our team leaders.

The team leader began the call by telling Joe he was sorry that he was bothering Joe at home. Joe said okay thanks and hung up. We learned later the team leader’s call wasn’t of an urgent matter, but regardless it was after 9 pm so what was to be accomplished? Besides, Joe and I had one maybe two martinis. Yes, Joe was a bit of a smart aleck, but he was managing the business. Are you managing your business?

Delegate or Outsource

If you’re trying to do it all how’s that plan working for you? A good friend who is an excellent solopreneur headshot photographer recently retained a marketing company to handle his social media and content creation. He realized he needed it, didn’t like doing it, and was better off to outsource or delegate marketing than to do it himself.

Begin training employees from day one to take over as many of your responsibilities as possible. If you believe only you can do it, or if you want it done right you have to do it, your ability to grow will be limited. If this is your belief, you need to take a hard look at how you train your direct reports. How to Delegate Even When You Don’t Want to

Know the Difference Between Urgent and Important tasks

There’s no greater indication of being managed by your business than spending your day, and night, putting out fires. Urgent task or fires are sudden problems that seem to require your immediate attention. Urgent tasks take you away from the important tasks that help your reach your goals. Before jumping to an unexpected and uninvited task stop and consider:

  • If I jump to this what am I putting off?
  • Could someone else do this?
  • Does it require my attention right this minute?

Here’s more on the topic, Why am I so Behind?

Quit Trying to Multitask

Have you bought into The Multitasking Myth? The human brain isn’t a computer. The autonomous nervous system handles simultaneous functions such as heart rate and breathing, but our thinking brain doesn’t manage multiple activities. We switch from one activity to another often using different areas of our brain. At a networking event, a friend volunteered to take over note taking while I ate. He used my laptop. Later he asked why I didn’t have spellcheck. I explained writing and editing used different areas of the brain, so when I write, I turn spellcheck off. I turn it on when I edit. Attempting to multitask diminishes your ability to focus on a task and complete it to the best of your ability.

Are You Managing Your Business or Being Managed?

Are you managing your business or being managed by it? Do you want to begin managing your business rather than being managed? If so, here’s your challenge. Choose one of the four actions listed above, turning off, delegating, multitasking, or limiting jumping to urgent fires, and then begin improving it today.