Meet Fred. He is a genius like many of you reading this post. He’s a successful software engineer who has made a very nice living fixing the bugs of larger software developers.
His clients love him. Because of the software he has developed and installed for them, they’ve saved millions of dollars on inventory management costs.
Businesses that almost ran out of cash because of this are now profitable and growing. Fred is in his late forties.
It’s not time to retire, but he has to decide the following questions:
What does he want to do with the business when he’s ready to retire?
Sell it? Close it? If he sells it, he has to have something of value he can transfer title to. Even if these are patented or copyrighted assets, he needs to build these so he can leverage his hard work and sell the company for more than its breakup value.
What happens to the business if Fred becomes ill?
Right now, he’s the only one working in it. His wife provides some administrative support, but Fred’s the brains of the operation. Right now, he’s irreplaceable. That feeds the ego but doesn’t serve his business or his customers long term.
How many more years can Fred work 16 hours a day?
At some point, we all get pretty weary. The whole idea of owning a business is to work these crazy hours in the beginning, so you don’t have to as the business grows and matures. What every small business owner, including you, should be thinking about.
Write down where you want your business and your personal life to be five years from now.
Go ahead, write it down.
- Include how many hours you want to work, how much money you want to earn.
- Now figure out how many clients of what type do you need to reach those revenue and income goals.
- Consider what it would take to hire an intern to begin to train them on the basics of your business to help you scale.
- What kind of skills and basic knowledge would this intern have to have?
- 2 women checking e-mail
If you’re an IT consultant, an intern will need some technical background they can get in their college engineering courses.
If you’re in fashion design, the design schools have tons of talent who are dying for the experience. The idea is to hire someone who you can train to begin to share the daily load so the business can grow beyond its current size.
Figure it takes at least six months to train an intern to add value to the business.
Once they handle client calls and learn how to problem-solve the basics, you can train them in the more sophisticated things. Within a year or two, you could be ready to hire them part-time at first, then full-time.
The best small business advice anyone ever gave me is to remember, you can’t do it by yourself, at least not forever.
Start looking for talent. Ask college professors to scout out the smart and motivated ones. Then start training and delegating. Does it take an investment of time? Yes. Everything worthwhile does. But the payback can be substantial. My buddy Mike built such a great exec team over the years; he’ll be selling them the business when he retires soon.
Small business owners need to know what their personal and professional goals are five years from now.
Only then can you begin to execute the plan to leverage your time and your talent to grow your small business. Start now. Don’t wait.