Lesson 6, Topic 2
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Working at the wrong level

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Small business owners are often wearing all the hats (they should call themselves the Chief Everything Officer) and never have enough time. Trying to do it all themselves or carry the business makes them tired and prone to burning out, selling up or giving up.

Why is this so common?

Our experiences shape our perceptions. One of the big experiences many business owners have to overcome is the employee experience. We all start our working lives as employees, often as a part-time job then later as work experience or an apprentice. We’ve been conditioned to think that the harder we work the more likely we are to get a promotion or bonus. Your job as a business owner isn’t to be responsible for the producing outcome, you’re responsible for creating the conditions to create the output. This firmly establishes us in a paradigm of trading our time for money.

You are now a business owner so it’s time for a paradigm shift. You’ve got to stop thinking about working harder to achieve your goals because that will only lead to more work for you as a business owner. Your role is not to work harder but to think better.

The proof of this? If all of your marketing dreams came true at once and you had 30% more business or clients starting with you next week how many more hours would you have to work to supply the new demand? If you’re like most, the answer is probably 30% – 50% more time because you’re thinking like an employee, trading time for money. The right answer is a 0% increase in your workload and possibly a decrease as it may mean you can better leverage economies of scale.

As the boss, you should be doing less and thinking more. Clarity is your job as a business owner not being the first in and last out of the office each day. The more space you can create to think, the clearer the what, what, who and how to become.

Another reason many business owners don’t want to raise their level of thinking is that it’s a lot easier to continue working IN your business because it’s known, safe. You know what to expect and you’ve been conditioned to think that all you require to succeed is good work. Business owners working like this are often told by coaches that they should be working ON your business rather than working IN your business. But what does this mean? How do you know what to focus on?

The Requisite Organisation (RO), created by Elliott Jaques and Kathryn Cason, gives us the framework to understand what we should be working on based on our role in an enterprise.

The time to complete tasks at each level of work according to the RO are:
7. International president: 20 – 50 years
6. CEO: 10 – 20 years
5. CEO/GM: 5 – 10 years
4. Senior executive: 2 – 5 years
3. Functional head: 1 – 2 years
2. Front line manager: 3 – 12 months
1. Supervisors/front line staff: days to months

Obviously, this is designed for international corporations but we can see that as the CEO of our business we should be focused on a 5 – 10 year time horizon. This is strategic thinking where we won’t see changes overnight but the changes will be day and night different from where you are today.

Which time horizon are you currently operating on? Where would you like to be?