Sleepless nights. Overwhelming stress. Tremendous financial risks. And after all of that, your startup is still standing. You deserve praise for accomplishing something that most do not. However, as great as a founder that you may be, how sustainable is your startup? Can your company survive without you being present every moment of the day?
For all you solo founders out there, chances are that your actions account for 99% of the successes (and failures) of the company. I only say 99% because maybe your company already has some processes in place that are somewhat automated. This likely fact is the direct concern of this post. In order to build and grow a healthy, profitable and sustainable business, you must find ways that your business can operate beyond your activities. Now this is not to say that no one should have to work while your business generates revenue, but it is saying that your company should be operated to the point that someone of equal competence and skill could operate your business.
Warren Buffet once said that he likes to invest in businesses that can be run by a ham sandwich. Think about this for a moment. Arguably, the greatest investor that the world has ever known says that he likes to invest in businesses that can be run by a ham sandwich. By this, Buffett means that he likes businesses that operate with countless processes in place that anyone, who understands the processes, company vision and market conditions, could operate the company with some form of mediocrity.
What tools do you use to keep track of orders? What customer relationship management tools do you use? How often and what sort of content do you put out on your various external channels? Each of those questions should have an answer that reflects a company that can add another person to these daily processes, and equally, remove you from the equation and replace you with someone with equal skill and knowledge.
This concept isn’t designed to get you to think about exiting your company. To the contrary, it is designed to help you think about the way you run your company to grow it larger and to create a work environment where you are more productive within your company. By creating these processes and finding out what tools allow you to be more productive, while also finding what tools and activities are resulting in more revenue, you will simultaneously learn where you should invest more time and maybe hire on additional team members to manage such tasks.
I heard a great quote some years back from a business owner in which he said: “I work on my business, not in my business.” I think that this quote gives great value to the point of growing your company. Founders, CEOs and executives should think about how to improve processes to make the business more profitable, efficient and a good place to work. This can’t be accomplished if you are focused on the details of each transaction, media inquiries, or product bug issues. By using the right tools and putting the proper processes in place, these things can be truly be accomplished without truly occupying your time and focus.
Making this mental transition isn’t as easy as it sounds. But upon doing it, you will quickly realize how much more efficient your business can be. Begin by setting up a plan that outlines all of the daily and weekly requirements of your business. Evaluate if you are as effective with these tasks as you should be. Find tools that will make this task exponentially easier. Believe me when I say that there is probably a tool out there to help you do whatever you need to do. Whether it is content management system to organize and manage your website and blog, conference calling, or whether it is free online accounting and billing systems, these applications exist and often can be used at no cost. Use these tools and begin setting up schedules, normal procedures, protocols for certain situations, and overall business processes. By doing this, over time, you will find out how quickly your business can scale.
With that being said, I pose a different hypothetical to you. If you were to go on a vacation for 3 months and you briefly trained someone, of equal intelligence and skill, on what to do with your various tools and processes, could your business survive without you? If the answer is yes, then you have truly developed a growth business, and not just something you are doing that makes money.
I wish you best of luck and I would like to hear your thoughts. If you already have developed processes that allow your business to be extremely efficient, productive and profitable, please share your ideas and suggestions with other entrepreneurs within the Under30CEO community.