As a small business owner, you may remember the days when it was a solo show, or when you were bootstrapping many aspects of the work in order to get started.
While this can continue for quite a while, the longer your small business exists and the more successful it becomes, the less it makes sense for you to be involved with every aspect of the work.
Of course, it can be hard to delegate or outsource aspects of your hard-won small business, especially when you haven't found partners yet who inspire confidence. Others may not seem as committed to your mission as you are, or they may seem like they have less specialized experience. However, especially as you begin to scale the growth of your small business, it is incredibly important to remember that your time is valuable. Here are some of the ways that you should evaluate your own time expenditures to make sure you aren't treating your time as worth less than you should be.
Here is how to evaluate the uses of your time.
As you start hiring part-time or full-time employees, you may feel frustrated that they can't possibly have the same level of investment that you have in the business. However, few owners get the results they want simply by spot-checking and critiquing constantly in their businesses. Rather, notice the issues you observe and incorporate them into comprehensive, positive trainings that help your employees see the bigger picture as well as understand what success means at your company. To get high investment, you need to be the kind of boss that listens to them, provides a path to advancement, and helps them understand why things are done the way they are done. Your time is really well spent when you provide this context to them and see them grow naturally, rather than having to find and correct everything they do incorrectly.
Doing things yourself may have gotten you this far, so jumping into the thick of the company's production or service areas may feel good and be a welcome change from the often-overwhelming big-picture decision-making. However, if you usually hire this work out for a fairly basic wage, you are undervaluing your time by getting into the nitty-gritty of the business. Rather, you can be noticing what makes a great employee at your company and using that information to make the hiring process more and more effective. When you get people who stick with your company for a long time, doing great work, the investment of time in hiring just becomes increasingly valuable over time.
If you had to do every part of the sourcing and production process for your business in-house at the beginning, to keep costs low in your start-up phase, it makes sense that you'd want to control the process as you get larger and larger. However, most companies grow to see that they have profitable and non-profitable operations within their production or service cycle. It might make sense to buy particular parts of your product pre-fabricated at a large-scale manufacturer and then assemble them in-house, rather than owning all of the machines needed for in-house fabrication. You know your product best, so a great use of your time as an owner is getting to know the landscape of outsourcing possibilities. As your company grows, new needs emerge, like a need for cybersecurity; before you need a staff, or perhaps instead of a staff, you may want a vendor like Veezo to provide security services without you needing the expertise to hire security officers yourself. Vendors and outsourcing can help you scale your business without having to be an expert in everything a medium-sized business requires.
For some things, you'll discover that in-house is your best option for getting the quality you need, but in other cases, a cheaper, larger-scale vendor can probably give you the price you want without compromising the unique aspects of your business.
As your team grows, you may feel like you have messaging that needs to get to every single employee and find yourself in large group meetings more and more often. Recognize what happens in big-group meetings: many of the members of the team are getting bored because of the irrelevant topic matter, no matter how efficiently your meetings are run. The bigger your company gets, the more useful it is to schedule one-on-ones and small-group meetings where the only people present have a vested interest in the information. Sending email updates to those who are only tangentially related can give them a quick, one-minute blast of information without wasting company time on the entire meeting.
Most companies have departments where the employees start a drafting or design process and proceed to a final product of some kind: a deliverable for market or a document to be publicized. Owners, at first, may want to be around for ideation and drafting, since this can, at times, help guide new employees toward the kind of products that are most desirable. However, once your team has demonstrated a capacity for success, the next step is to get into the process later and later; ideally, as the owner of the company, you won't see every single deliverable from smaller projects. You'll see all big project deliverables, but you'll see them at the end, only pointing out issues if they are truly major. Your time is valuable in all the above ways (training, hiring, outsourcing) but ultimately, you are charting the big picture of the company. While occasional forays into the nitty-gritty keep you connected to the company, they shouldn't be the day-to-day of your work, since someone needs to be steering the ship and noticing the big picture shifts in the company. That person is you!