As entrepreneurs, we all have visions, goals, and dreams to pursue. But sometimes the company you’re running is so overwhelming that you can’t step away and focus on other things. These ‘other things’ can be anything from running a side hustle, travelling, or simply focusing on business growth. But if you’re so heavily caught up in the day-to-day tasks of your business, it’s difficult to focus on these other things.
How then, can you inspire your employees and elevate them to a state where they can run your business without you efficiently?
In March 2015, I set a goal to become a sports journalist covering Real Madrid in the Bernabeu – a side hustle that was ambitious to say the last. Madrid was 7, 000 km away from home, and I own a cafe in Halifax which employs 20-25 employees on a consistent basis and is open 17 hours a day, 7 days a week.
On September 26th – six months after I had set my goal – I was sitting press row at The Bernabeu to a cover a goalless draw against Malaga. The ambitious goal was met, and has opened up doors in my life that were non-existent before. It was a victory that would have been impossible had I not had a system in place where my business ran efficiently without my presence.
There are several steps you need to take in order to get your business to a stage where it works for you, and not vice versa.
Many business gurus will vouch that the biggest challenge you’ll face in your organization is managing your staff and keeping them onboard long-term. While this is for the most part true across the board, it’s something that I haven’t faced in nearly a year, and it’s an issue that’s preventable if you can truly take these principles into action – even if it’s in a cafe setting where turnover is usually high.
It starts with the hiring process.
Hire based on character, not talent
I believe this principle to be true in most fields – whether it’s a coffee shop, a factory, or retail store.
I’ve hired barista superstars who were egomaniacs. They made killer lattes and pissed off customers. They had no desire to be a part of the team and had little interest in the Company’s philosophy.
On the flipside, I’ve hired employees with zero cafe experience who entered the business with the utmost humility. These are the employees who boost sales. I always say, we can train you on making drinks but we can’t train your character. Once you have people who build relationships with customers, customers will be much more forgiving if something goes wrong because there’s a friendship in place.
Make sure your employees understand your mantra
This is vital. If your staff have no idea why they’re working for you (other than receiving a paycheck), things will fall apart rapidly. Morale will decline, turnover will increase, and your business will crumble.
Our business mantra is simple: To serve the community. We exist not because we serve great coffee, desserts, or whatever. We exist to bring the community together, build relationships, foster friendships, and give vibrancy to the neighborhood. Once the employees understood that – everything changed. They became proud to work for an organization who stood for something.
Don’t invent roles in your organization where if someone calls in sick or goes on vacation, chaos ensues. You may think that you have to do everything yourself – but you don’t. You’d be amazed at how competent people are if you just let them do something. I have little trouble admitting that my staff are better than me at mostly everything – they make better drinks, connect with customers better, and work more efficiently during a lunch rush. So I step away and let them do their thing better than I ever could. This allows me to step back and focus on things I’m truly good at like marketing and business growth.
Create a system where staff are interchangeable – one that is seamless and allows other employees to step up to the plate when someone leaves your organization.
Don’t look at your staff as employees
This may seem counter-intuitive, but when I stopped looking at my staff as employees, morale went up, and so did sales. Your staff are your equals, and you are merely part of the team that makes up the organization. How well that team gels will directly affect the outcome of achieving your business goals. Sure, you may be the CEO and eventually make the final call on everything, but don’t micro-manage, and remember you aren’t superior to anyone else in the company just because you have a different role.
Hold employees accountable
Treating your staff like equals doesn’t mean you’re always forgiving mistakes and singing kumbaya at work. If an employee shows up late several times, it sends a terrible message to the rest of your staff if you don’t hold them accountable. There will be times where employees will be problematic enough that you’ll have to let them go – embrace it. Letting go of staff isn’t easy, but it has an incredibly positive effect on morale if you do it for the right reasons. This is a simple – yet powerful – principle: Letting go of problematic employees is a huge boost for your business, and employees will respect you for taking action and staying true to your company’s policies.
Remind yourself of your values daily
I currently have managers who do the hiring, training, accounting, and ordering for the company I founded. This allows me to continue building on the company’s vision, and ample time to work on my journalism career. Having said that, I’m there daily – not because I have to, but because I want to. I like collaborating with staff and connecting with customers, even if it’s just stopping in for 5-10 minutes for the day.
Losing momentum and drive is one of the worst things that can happen to entrepreneurs – that kind of lifeless work ethic will trickle down to your staff, and eventually manifest itself to your customers.
Every night, before you go to bed, remind yourself why you’re doing this. Never forget the why. I set my alarm for 5am daily – weekends included – and I’m genuinely excited for that alarm to go off. I love what I do, I love the fact that I don’t dread what I do.
Find that excitement. Find your why, and stick with it. That kind of energy will do wonders for your business.
When I first founded my company in 2012, I slept there overnight three days in a row, showered at the gym across the street, opened the store at 7am, and closed it at midnight.
Don’t expect, just because you have a formula for success, that it will happen overnight, or that you will succeed at all. Don’t interpret that last sentence as negativity, rather realize that you need to work like a madman in order to achieve your goals. By no means are any of these suggestions going to be easy. But in my experience – and after talking to many successful entrepreneurs – I’ve come to the conclusion that hustle trumps anything life may throw at you. So long as you have a belief and the work ethic to accompany it, you will succeed eventually – even if you fail repeatedly along the way.
Getting your business to run efficiently without you opens portals to do other things in your life that you’ve always wanted to do. Strive daily, and never lose your momentum.