What should business owners actually do and not do?
Here are some of things that I have seen that aren’t big enough to warrant their own article or guide, but important enough that they need to be written down somewhere.1I’ve made the assumption that the business has product-market fit, is profitable and has achieved some level of success. This is not for businesses starting out.
What Business Owners Should Do
1. Show up for their team
It goes without saying, if the team needs help and your managers can’t help… it’s your business and it’s on you.
If the office lights need to be changed at 7am and no team member will do it… guess who’s headed to the office at 7am?2True story.
This can be anything as mundane as “I don’t know where to click on this app” to something more complex like, “I’m having a tough time on this marketing funnel and need some guidance.”
2. Keep an eye on the finances
Don’t use the “bank balance method” and assume that if your bank balance is going up then the numbers are good.
Make sure that you do proper bookkeeping and accounting.
Make sure that you know your revenue, expenses, cashflow, receivables, payables and cash cycle.
Get a help from a Fractional CFO if you need to.
A lot of people hate numbers but the whole point of business is to make money. And guess what?
Money = numbers.
So learn to love them.
3. Keep an eye on the numbers
Speaking of numbers…
You must know what your other key numbers are.
These are business-specific.
If you’re online, you likely need to know your: Opt-ins, list size, social reach, MRR, ad metrics.
If you’re in services, it might be: Churn rate, MRR, revenue per employee.
Whatever they are, track them weekly in a dashboard/scorecard (aka, Google Spreadsheet) and review them regularly.
4. Interview every candidate until you’re big enough
It blows me away that owners of small companies don’t want to meet the people who will bring them $100k+ in revenue over the next 6 months.
Don’t make this mistake.
Make sure that you interview every candidate you hire until you are big enough to have a dedicated HR or Ops person.
All this means is you talk to the candidate at least once during the interview process.
It doesn’t matter how introverted you are. Do it at the very end of the interview process if you need to.
ONLY stop this when you have a dedicated hiring or ops manager. This usually happens at around 20+ people in the company. And even then, strongly consider continuing to do “sign off” final round interviews with candidates.
5. Give up sales last
You are going to be the best sales person in the company until it’s big enough to hire sales people and compensate them well.
In the early stages, no one believes in the business or can convey what you do and your value as well as you can.
This is not the same as pipelining leads or doing sales support work — those assignments you can and absolutely should have other people handle for you.
It also does not mean you don’t hire sales people early on or have your senior people do sales calls. You should do both those things.
But don’t be afraid to pick up the phone/Zoom and talk to clients because that’s what’s needed to acquire new business.
6. Take a keen interest in marketing
Hiring a marketing manager or agency will not solve your marketing problems.
It amazes me how many business owners think that a new hire will magically fix their lack of leads or sales.
No one knows your product or service as well as you do.
Yes, marketing can eventually be delegated, but only once it’s been systemised and streamlined.
You CANNOT just abdicate responsibility for marketing and expect it to work.
7. Take up a position of strategic thought leadership
Thought leadership is all about your approach to the service or products you provide.
You want to learn from others, refine your approach then talk loudly and prolifically about your approach and value.
This is especially true if you are in a service business. People come to you for the best/most innovative solutions, so that’s what you have to bring.
Even if you offer a productised service, customers still want the best productised service they can buy.
Most business owners do this naturally.
It’s good for business development, in discussion with potential clients and for publicity purposes.
It’s also good for team morale, as the team will look up to you and prevents resentment down the line where the business owner is perceived as “doing nothing” while drawing a high salary.
8. Build up a 6-12 month warchest
In the earlier days of Microsoft, Bill Gates insisted on keeping 12 months of business expenses in the bank, so that the company could survive a year without any revenue.
You should do the same. It will help the business pull through tough periods.
9. Be a benevolent dictator
You should poll your team for their opinions and expertise, but make all the decisions.
You business is a benevolent dictatorship.
10. Have someone on your team who is interested in technology and systems
You must be on point with technology and systems, or your business will be left behind.
Technology is one of the few things that can shift the productivity curve and you must invest in it.
There is no good job title for the person who makes your technology and systems work, but you need this person.
It’s sometimes called:
- Online business manager.
- Operations consultant.
- Business systems consultant.
- Systems integrator.
- Management consultant specialising in technology and operations.
- Fractional COO.
- Fractional CSO (Chief Systems Officer).
11. Have strategic objectives or OKRs
You must have strategic objectives or OKRs set for the company and team.
As the business owner it is YOUR responsibility to set them. This is not something you can just hand off to a manager.
You’re the captain, and it’s up to you to determine where the ship is headed.
12. Work out how much time to dedicate to the business
You want to take the rational response here, there is no one-size-fits-all.
If you have a family and children, then you will want to make more time for them.
If you’re single and in growth mode and don’t have much else going on — then it makes sense to spend more time on the business.
What Business Owners Shouldn’t Do
1. Delegate by abdication or “delegation by goal”
Do not delegate by abdication or set some broad goal and ask a team member to “work it out”.
As the business owner, it is YOUR job to help your team out when they are stuck.3i.e., servant leadership.
Do not just abdicate tasks that you don’t want to do.
And also don’t “set a broad goal and let the (skilled) person figure it out”.
Anyone who is a professional will tell you that this is the most annoying type of employer or manager to deal with.
Consultants or outsourced vendors will be able to handle this because that’s what they’re paid to do.
But internal team members DO NOT like it at all and DO NOT handle it well, especially if it is a new task that they are unfamiliar with.
Bad delegation doesn’t make a business problem goes away, it simply shifts the burden to someone else.
And at the end of the day if something isn’t completed, you can fire the team member you abdicated responsibility to, but you’ll still be stuck with the problem.
More in my effective delegation article.
2. Menial chores and duties in your personal life
Don’t fill up your time with menial chores like cooking, cleaning or laundry.
Hire someone else to do them for you.
The only time you should be doing these things is if you find them meditative and replenishing because of how simple and routine they are.
3. Tasks that take up excessive mental energy
A great example of this for most business owners is cold outreach.
It’s cold, repetitive and dehumanising, and puts a large mental cloud over you that stops you from doing higher-value work.
Don’t just throw these tasks to team members who are unequipped or not trained to do them — because they just won’t do them.
Any of these tasks that take up excessive mental energy should be built out and people hired specifically for this.
e.g., if your Client Services Director is busy architecting your client onboarding process, don’t ask him to cut up his day and do cold outreach for you.
4. Stress over remote/in-office
The remote/office debate has been settled.
I personally think that a hybrid solution is the best if you already have an office, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
You must learn to embrace remote, because it isn’t going away anytime soon.
And you can learn to take advantage of it, by hiring talented staff from overseas at a lower cost than in the US/West.
5. Your own bookkeeping, accounting and taxes
Don’t do your own bookkeeping, accounting or taxes for your business or your personal life, even if you love numbers.
It’s worth the money to pay a professional to handle this for you.
If you’re an Australian company, have a chat with Ryu Noai over at Impala Accountants.
6. Focus on technical delivery once you have team members doing delivery
Once you hit 5+ team members doing service delivery in your business, you shift from being a technical professional to being a manager.
You can still do some work to stay sharp and updated, but the team should really be delivering most of the client work at that point.
7. Scale expenses alongside revenue
There’s no reason to spend like a $1m/year business if you’re doing $1m/year.
Yes, invest in growth and infrastructure and systems and team members.
But don’t spend for ego and status.
The wider the gap between your expenses and revenue, the better.
8. Hire consultants who offer a templated solution, rather than what the business actually needs
I see this all the time.
You’re stuck on a business problem and there’s no clear path forward in the business.
A consultant comes in and says, “oh, let’s do this”.
Sometimes, that will solve the problem.
Most of the time the consultant is offering the one thing they know how to do.
e.g., consultants who offer “training” to fix a business problem. Training is not knowledge transfer or problem solving, it’s just a slide deck with voiceover.
What happens when you hire such a consultant?
Don’t hire consultants who only offer one solution because that’s all they know how to do.
9. Neglect your physical and mental health
Until you hit a certain size (say 12+ team members, $1m+ annual revenue), the business is you to a large part.
It’s fuelled by your energy.
The Top 4 Mistakes That Business Owners Make
Download my guide to the Top 4 Mistakes That Imprison Business Owners in Daily Operations.
What To Do Next
Grab my guide to the Top 4 Mistakes That Imprison Business Owners in Daily Operations.
And if you need help on any of above in your business, head over here to book a discovery call with me to see how we can work together to overcome them.
- I’ve made the assumption that the business has product-market fit, is profitable and has achieved some level of success. This is not for businesses starting out.
- True story.
- i.e., servant leadership.