Escape from the Alcatraz of Your Business
Escape from Alcatraz, you know the movie, but now you created a prison that is holding you captive in your business and it’s time to escape. I don’t mean sell your business. If you are like me, you built your business so you could have freedom but what you did was build yourself another J-O-B. You are putting way too many hours in, your to-do list is a mile long and you can’t seem to get everything you want done. That was me in 2012. The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. I know, I am a recovering workaholic, and you can recover and escape the prison too.
In 2012, I heard those awful words, “I’m giving my 2 weeks notice.” I had gone through 6 part-time assistants, most lasting only about a year to a year-and-half. I have been on this merry-go-round before and it seems like every time I had someone trained to where they were working effectively, they would leave, and it would be time to replace them. Now I would get to spend more time, which I did not have, training someone new.
Dejected, I went to my favorite breakfast restaurant and sat in the section with my favorite server, Amanda. She said, “You look sad. What’s wrong?”
“My secretary just gave notice,” I confessed.
I asked if she knew of anyone looking for a part time position as a legal secretary. She promptly told me that she would be interested but would need to work full time.
There I was, looking at this 18-year-old girl who had just graduated high school and was starting her work experience by waitressing in a coffee shop. All the while thinking, “Does she have any of the skills I need for my law firm?”
I watched how she was able to serve all of her tables, each with customers who seemed happy with her and her service … drinks filled, and their breakfast orders correct. Certainly, she had qualities that I really admired like organization, prioritization and keeping her customers happy. However, I wondered did she have the skills to work in my law firm? I realized that one can hire for skill or hire for qualities. I realized I can teach the skills but not the qualities.
The first decision to be made was whether I could teach her the skills she would need to succeed in my business. I then was faced with the second decision; would I be able to pay an assistant full time rather than the part time salary I had budgeted? It would mean I would have to generate more revenue to cover her salary and she would be paid before me. In my mind, thinking I would have to work even harder to generate more revenue.
My choice was either to stick with business as usual, just barely scraping by, working harder, and doing things that did not generate income. Or I can take the plunge, invest in myself and focus on money generating activities and hire Amanda full time.
I chose to hire Amanda full time!
It’s 9 years since that time and that decision remains one of the best I’ve ever made. Amanda was one of the keys to unlocking my prison cell. Amanda has grown with me and the practice. She was a quick learner and her skills have developed. She is now my office manager taking care of everything! The best part is that I get to do what I love every day and do not have to deal with the non-money generating parts of my practice. I am free and no longer a workaholic.
The day I hired Amanda was the day that I went from business owner to CEO of my company. Everything I do now, I run through the scope of the question would a CEO do this?
If the answer is, “No,” I deleted it or delegated it.
One of the problems I had initially was I felt I was the only one who could do the work. I built my own prison. If I did it, I knew it would be done right. It also was a place to hide, solitary confinement, so that if it did not get done, it also was on me.
I felt like I was the best kept secret because I knew I had a great service to offer but no one knew who I was. I was locked away. It was not until I invested in myself, that I was able to have time and freedom to take massive action and therefore, I was able to grow my business and start several other successful businesses.
As a business owner, time is your biggest asset, and it is the only non-renewable asset. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.
If you spent time like money, what would you do differently? Would you spend all those hours on your business or do something you enjoy?
Getting back my time from doing non-money generating activities was the biggest gift. I was able to spend more time with my family and even take 2-week vacations, true freedom, without worry while still generating income.
One of the reasons that many of us feel that we have to work harder to make more money is because we are tied to the dollar-per-hour model. Many of us have come from jobs where we were paid by the hour and the only way to make more money was to work more or work harder to get a promotion with a raise.
However, there are several other business models that do not rely on the dollar-per-hour model such as creating packages or a membership program which allows you to maintain consistent cash flow without spending more time or working harder.
The second thing that is important to know about time is you get to choose how to spend your time. I find that putting everything in my calendar instead of having a to-do list helps me avoid being overwhelmed.
It seems counter intuitive that putting everything in your calendar actually gives you freedom. By putting everything in your calendar, it allows you the flexibility to reschedule if you can’t get something done. I suggest putting your self-care in first. Making yourself a priority allows you to take care of yourself. Once you are fulfilled, you have more to give to others.
In addition, when you put everything in the calendar, not just self-care activities, it should include vacations, time with your family and if you have children, time with your children. By putting all the things in your calendar that are important to you first, gives you the energy and the stamina to fill in the other parts of your business and makes working on the business parts much more enjoyable.
There are different stages to every business. There is the infant stage where your business is a baby, and you have to feed and nurture your business. This is the stage where prison begins. We feel like we can’t get a break and need to do everything. Try some of the suggestions mentioned above to avoid your lockdown.
However, as you get busier and your business becomes a teenager and just like every teenager, the business can be rebellious and wants to go off on its own direction. Reigning yourself in and being diligent with your calendar will tame the teenager to get the most from your time with your business and give you the “get out of jail free card.”
The next stage is the adult stage where things function on autopilot. It means that you have the system, the finance, the operations, and the marketing all in place. Things run smoothly and you just do what you love because the rest is being handled automatically with the systems, operations, finance, and marketing.
When your business is an adult, you have the business functioning on autopilot except the things you love doing and are needed for you to do generate money. This is the ultimate freedom. Spending time the way you want and on your terms.
Therefore, by becoming the CEO of your business and following these simple steps of not trading hours for dollars, creating a new business model, delegating non money generating activities, being choosey of how you spend your time, and consciously know what stage your business is in such as baby, teen or adult will allow you to make more money, be more satisfied and actually love the time you spend in your business. No more working harder to make more money. No more stress that there is not enough time and your to do list is as tall as you are! You started your business to have freedom in your life over your time and how you spend it, so don’t just create another job for yourself. Congratulations! You have escaped from Alcatraz.