Are you mail-phobic?

Do you find yourself cringing at the sight of the mail truck as it turns in your direction.  Or fearfully opening your mailbox, as if a giant green monster was going to grab you and suck you in?

This is the part of business ownership no one talks about.  It is all fun and games when we are opening our doors and cutting the ribbon.  But what happens when the local paper goes away and the customers stop treating us like the ‘new kid’ on the block?

The daily stress of business ownership can be overwhelming.  Suddenly we find ourselves hiding under the desk fearful of the next ball to drop.

How can we eliminate this constant fear?

Here are a few tips to help make 2018 less stressful:

Take a realistic view of your business

Goals are fantastic, but we need to see our business for what it is in order to eliminate some of the fear.  It is easy as business owners to believe the next mistake will cause us to close our doors.  But this constant fear of total failure may be unrealistic.  What were your sales last month? Last quarter? Last year?  

The next question to ask is what could possibly come in the mail that would cause today to be your last day in business? In reality, probably nothing.  Our success or failure in business doesn’t happen overnight.  It is a series of small choices that will lead us to our ultimate goal.  

For our lemonade stand, the sales were $1,000 last month.  Which means we are on track to have sales of $12,000 for the year.  This is more than just a hobby at this point.  But do we treat our business as a sustainable company? If our business is something we started from scratch, it is easy to keep the same mindset of survival even after the company has grown.  But is this realistic?

The key is to trust our skills.  Regardless of our current size, we have made it this far in the journey of business ownership.  So whatever problem is just around the corner we WILL be able to handle.  Customers came in the door yesterday.  We have no reason not to believe they won’t come today and tomorrow.  And the mailman is our friend!  

Learning to delegate

Chances are we may be hiding under the desk at the sight of the mailman because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for all of the things we need to do.  We didn’t plan on forgetting to renew our business license, or make a payment to the insurance company.  We just ran out of time.

This is one of the hardest challenges for many entrepreneurs.  We are the face of our business, and our business is our life’s work.  So how could we possibly delegate a task to someone else?

The key to delegating effectively is managing our expectations and ensuring that the task we are delegating matches the skill set of our employee.  We wouldn’t want to delegate cooking to one of our servers.  

We also must be realistic.  Regardless of the skill set of the employee, chances are that the delegated task will not be performed as well as if we had done it ourselves.  The person you ask to do the assignment will probably make a mistake.  And, the time it takes for this person to do the work will cost you the business owner money.  But rather than giving up on delegating with the belief of ‘anything worth doing I should do myself’, it may help to look at delegating under a different lens.

We may not want to delegate the task of renewing the business license or paying the insurance, but there may be other things in our daily work that could be delegated in order to free up time for more important tasks.

Using our lemonade stand as an example, it takes the owner 2 hours a day to cut lemons and another hour to make the lemonade.  Cutting lemons is tedious, but he feels he gets the most yield out of lemons by doing it himself.  And yet, he is typically at the stand well into the night making lemonade for the next day and is running himself into the ground.  

So what should he do?

  1. Acceptance: this current method is not sustainable.  Something must give if he is to continue.  
  2. Categorize the importance of the tasks to be delegated.  Of the two tasks, making the lemonade would be the highest importance since it has direct impact on his sales for the following day.
  3. Manage expectations and accept the cost.  He will have to pay an employee $10/hour to cut lemons and while it may take him 2 hours, it will probably take them three.  Which means it will cost him $30 to delegate this task.  He will also probably have to take time to train the employee for the first few days.
  4. Maximize time savings – delegating the cutting of lemons will save him 2 hours a day once the employee is trained.  What will he do with two hours of additional time? Is $30 worth it for 2 additional hours everyday? In most cases, the answer is yes, especially if it will reduce his late nights and makes him fresh for the following day.

Delegating can be a juggling act.  But if our end goal is to be on a beach with our feet up while our business runs itself, we must learn how to delegate some of the daily tasks otherwise we will never be able to reap the rewards of business ownership.


Small steps can make a big difference

For most of us, we are anxious to reach the finish line.  We want growth to happen NOW.  But at the same time, we feel overwhelmed by the process of growing our business.  The key is to set smaller goals for the next 30 days rather than focusing of our larger yearly goals.  

For our lemonade stand, rather than focusing on doubling our sales in the next 12 months, we may want to focus on adding 10 new customers every weekend.  Or two new customers each day? By the end of the year, the result may be the same, but we will feel less overwhelmed by the process.

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