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Let Go Of The Tools

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

One of my clients had a revelation during our last meeting. I’m not sure if it was a welcome one or not.

He has been struggling to find time to make some of the changes he needs to make. At the start of this meeting he confessed that he’d made little progress because he had spent 90% of his time working on projects (even though he employs two project managers to run these).

When I asked why that was he replied to the effect that a) his employees made mistakes, b) he would do a better job than them and c) he enjoyed doing this technical work.

Setting that to one side for a moment, we talked about ways he might reduce his own workload in the short term – he tells me he is working sixty-hour weeks. Part of this conversation touched on sub-contracting and my client said how attracted he was to using third-parties who worked to a fixed-price and “didn’t need motivating.” We also discussed one of his PMs who is resistant to change and not performing well.

In terms of making his business systemised and scalable he felt he needed to “get over this busy period and then I can set some time aside for this.”

I was not surprised by our conversation. At some point during this systemisation process every client starts to realise that a systemised, scalable business is a state of mind. It isn’t something that is bolted-on, or a one-off project. Owners of scalable, systemised businesses understand that systemisationn never ends but is moved forward every day in dozens of little improvements. They see themselves as someone who spends their time designing, building and improving a business, not doing technical stuff, or even sales stuff.

Above all, they understand that it is their role to develop others. The understand that the only way to grow a business sustainably is by growing the employees.

The country needs highly-skilled and independent professionals who enjoy and take pride in technical work – and make a good living doing this. However, sometimes these people are so successful they find themselves employing others and running a business. The resulting mismatch between their role ansd what they enjoy leads to frustration, unhappiness and sixty-hour weeks – unless they can change their mindset and let go of the tools.

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