I call this phenomenon ‘The ceiling of complexity’, and it seems to affect 95% of small to medium sized business owners, keeping them stuck below a personal income of £100k per year.
Why does it happen? As businesses grow, business owners end up with an overwhelming number of people and things constantly demanding their time, energy, and attention. Complexity grows with success, until not only does working harder and longer no longer work, it becomes counter-productive, and entrepreneurs feel like they are stuck in a rut, and constantly overwhelmed.
What can you do? As Mark Twain said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Entrepreneurs need to recognise that to keep growing, something has to change. The first is the shift from a mindset of rugged individualism - where they feel they need to do everything themselves - to a state of unique teamwork.
This is based on the idea that everyone has a unique ability - a unique set of skills for which they have a passion. The key to unique teamwork is to focus more and more on your own unique ability and delegate everything else to others who ideally have unique abilities in the areas where you don’t. The second shift is from the time-and-effort economy to the results economy. For entrepreneurs, if you don’t generate results, you don’t get paid – being in an office nine to five, Monday to Friday has very little to do with it, yet many business owners still think of and organise their time in this way. Instead we recommend dividing time into free days - a complete 24 hour period without work for relaxation and recovery. Focus days - where you focus only on the activities that you generate the most important results. And, buffer days – where you plan, prepare and deal with less important tasks that still require your involvement. When entrepreneurs are able to focus more on the things they love to do, and that produce great results, their energy level and ability to focus is boosted, which ultimately leads to increased revenue and profitability, breaking through the glass ceiling to a new level of success.
Reducing complexity – Where to start?
Focus on the priorities: Write down the top three most important objectives you need to achieve.
Make it achievable: For each objective, make a list of all the obstacles you think will need to overcome, then consider a strategy to overcome each obstacle, and who in the business is best suited to implementing it.
Make it happen: Set aside the time when you are going to focus on your top three objectives, and protect it at all costs.
Just by doing the above, you will already be taking steps to simplify your working environment by focusing on your strengths and the strengths of your team, and developing a time system that enables you to focus on the strategy and growth of your business.
Dan Sullivan is the co-founder of globally successful small business consultancy Strategic Coach.