Stop Overwhelming Yourself: A Leader’s Guide on How to Get Out of Your Own Way
How to Regain Your Mojo and Grow Your Business
Many creative agencies and small business owners come to me with the same problem. They don’t have time to drive business growth. They wake early and get straight to work, checking emails before they have got out of bed. As soon as they arrive at work, they start fighting fires. They become wrapped up in other people’s tasks – micromanaging them to make sure they get done right. They forget meetings, get home late, and spend the last hour of the day ‘wrapping up’.
Does this sound familiar to you? The problem isn’t your team or your people. The problem is you. Your business is a mirror of yourself – and you need to get out of your own way.
Do you need to get out of your own way?
As the owner of a creative agency, you get busy, right? I mean, it goes with the territory, doesn’t it?
Your day is full of tasks, responsibilities, issues, and problems that need your attention. Staff problems, customer issues, bank account issues, property issues, IT breakdowns… your mom told you that there would be days like this, didn’t she? She didn’t tell you every day would be the same, though.
When you start a business, you wear many hats. You’re responsible for all your business does, including:
Hiring, and training, keeping people busy
Managing the projects,
Keeping clients happy
And everything else that is required to run your business
New business owners are responsible for all these day-to-day functions because you don’t have the resource or the courage to give them over to someone else to do. At the beginning, that’s what works.
Now, though, it’s overwhelming. But you still can’t let go! It’s so scary to let go — what if someone screws it up? That’s just more work for you, and money out of your pocket!
This desire for control is making you the bottleneck resource in your business.
Ask yourself – are you getting in the way of yourself?
It can be difficult to realize that you’re getting in your own way. But if you don’t, your business will never reach its potential; because it is reliant on you.
With you as the bottleneck neither you nor your business will reach your full potential. . Worst of all, you could end up resenting the creative agency you worked so hard to build. As it takes up more and more of your time without producing more income, you keep putting in more effort as your sales and profits hit a ceiling.
Here are just a few signs that you are stuck on a carousel that is out of control:
You review every piece of work before it goes out, and your ‘To review’ pile is growing daily.
When your team encounters a problem – it’s you who must find the solution.
You work late into the evening doing work that others don’t want to do.
You spend the weekend catching up on business admin work.
You aren’t getting to work on the new ideas and opportunities that will grow your agency!
Was this your plan? Does it say, ‘Chief cook and bottle washer’ on your business cards? Are you feeling like you’ve hit a dead end?
Now, imagine that your agency grows, and new customers double the work you do. How will you manage?
Why are you engaged in this self-defeating behavior?
It’s time to get honest with yourself. You’re a victim of your own success. You’ve got this far because you’re good at what you do (likely better than anyone you’ve hired), but how much further can you go now?
You created this. You set up the systems and built the processes of how your team works. And those people that you can’t trust in your team (if you could, why are you checking all their work?)? Who hired them? Who trained them?
Everything that is blocking your business from stepping up to the next level keeps coming back to you. To unblock it you must take a step back, and start acting more like the boss you are – and regain control.
So, why are you still spending all your time in your business rather than on your business? Here’s what I’ve learned from my experience and from business owners who find themselves riding the roller coaster of entrepreneurship in the genius zone:
You’re scared of screwing up
When you first started your creative agency, you had nothing to lose. As your business has grown, you have become more dependent upon it. It now pays you a salary.
Your lifestyle depends on its continued success – and not only yours. All the people you employ depend on you. So do their families.
The stakes are higher now, and every decision and mistake are magnified!
You trusted your team members before, and they screwed up
Mistakes happen. What should you do about them? Fire the person who screwed up? If you knew they were going to screw up you should have fired them before they made the mistake.
Now that they’ve made the mistake, we paid for it. They learned from it. Firing them is the most counterproductive thing I could do – might as well amortize the cost for the future.
When someone makes a mistake, treat it like a learning experience for all, and make sure that it isn’t repeated.
You’re better at what your people do
We all like to think we are the best at what we do. But if you really are the best at everything your business does, then you have a real problem. In order to succeed you must hire people who are better than you. People who are specialists at their game, experts in different areas. You’re good across the whole business, but think how much better your business would be if you hire people who are great at singular parts of it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Super Bowl 2021. Their head coach, Bruce Adams, was assisted by a coaching team of two assistant coaches and nine offensive coaches, nine defensive coaches, three special teams coaches, and five strength and conditioning coaches. Each of these coaches specialize in a specific piece of the puzzle – like quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote.
You want to be the ‘super bowl winners’ of creative agencies? Create a system where you hire higher and recruit experts in the different areas of your business.
You desire control
You’re responsible for the results your business produces, its customer service, the quality of your products and services, and its reputation in the market. It’s your name on the door. You feel like your personal reputation is on the line.
It’s hard to give control to others when it is so personal, and when the success you have had is because of the way you have done things. You feel that things should continue to be done this way to achieve your business goals.
In his work in social psychology, Jerry M Burger developed the Desirability of Control Scale, noting that, ‘people who score high on the scale like to make their own decisions, often seek out leadership roles, like to control their interactions with others, and typically are uncomfortable when confronted with important events they cannot influence’.
This desire for control compels you to want to be able to do every job in your business, in case someone leaves.
For some business owners, control is an emotional thing. It strokes your ego and makes you feel good. You’re the superhero who saves the day! But it’s exhausting to be a superhero.
What should the roles and responsibilities of business owners be?
In order to get out of your own way, your job scope needs to be narrower. A business owner’s job is to lead the business. To grow, you must spend more time on your business and less time in your business. Focus on the things that only you can dos, including:
Winning the biggest deals
Overseeing the growth of the company culture and brand.
Recruiting, hiring and training the team.
It’s kind of like owning a car. You’re responsible for the brakes, but you don’t fix them yourself. You trust another to do that job for you. You’re not a mechanic.
Or being a parent. You’re responsible for your children’s education, but you don’t educate them yourself. You’re not a teacher.
Your job is to make sure that you get the best mechanic and teacher that you can. They become accountable for doing the job you task them with, while you remain responsible.
If you try to do everything yourself, growth simply isn’t sustainable. You are naturally limiting how big your business can get.
How to get out of your own way by narrowing your focus today
There are a few steps you must take to get out of your own way.
The first is to be better at being a business owner. Define your own job, which boils down to:
Building your team with people who are better at their job than you are (do you want to spend hours each day doing your accounts?)
Determining business strategy and getting others to deliver it
Setting priorities and boundaries (remember that budgets control spending, and you have the final say over the use of resources)
Shaping your culture, customer experience, and brand identity
When you understand what your job is as a business owner, you’ll be much better off answering the question, “How do I get out of my own way?”
Instead of struggling to do everything yourself, or be involved with doing everything yourself, you will:
Get better at eliminating, automating, delegating, or dropping – and you will do more without getting exhausted.
Focus your time on what you do best – staying in your zone of genius (which is a lot more fun).
Make better operational decisions by focusing on who, not how – who is best to do something, not how it should be done
Understand the value your business delivers – and focus on the most profitable niches
Raise your prices successfully – improving margins and profits and the value of your business
What does getting out of your own way deliver?
When you start to get out of your own way, you’ll want to get out of your own way faster.
A team of experts can accomplish things that you could never do without them or by yourself. Of course, it takes time. Your team won’t be able to handle all the daily activities from day one. However, as your team’s capability grows you will be able to take more of a back seat.
When you delegate, you elevate your team and yourself. You will have more time to do the things that you should be doing as a business owner: focusing on the strategic direction of your creative agency. As your confidence in your team grows, you will be able to take time off. Who would have thought you could ever go on vacation and not worry about your business?
Of course, because you are not the one delivering your services to clients, you can grow bigger and faster. And a bigger business means bigger profits.
Are you overwhelmed? Is your motivation ebbing? Do you want to know how to cut down on your hours from today, to start getting your life back?
Sign up for my 5-day Get Control course – an email each day for five days. Each email delivers practical actions to take to start to regain the focus and energy you had when you started your business. It’s the first step to getting out of your own way and growing your business to its full potential.