How's your workload these days?

If you were pushed into the weeds of your business during the height of the pandemic, you're not alone. Many owners found themselves doing tasks they hadn't done in ages over the past few years, either because they were forced to lay off front-line staff or because they had to regularly fill in for employees who fell ill or were caring for someone in need. Maybe you found yourself enjoying the temporary return to hands-on projects and direct service – perhaps you very much did not.

Either way, are you still in the weeds? Has returning to regular routines and higher-level leadership tasks proved an uphill battle? Staying stuck with your fingers in every pie isn't healthy for you or your business long-term. On a personal level, it's a recipe for burnout; professionally, your business will simply be less valuable if it depends on you doing all the work yourself.

Now is an excellent opportunity to retool your company so that it can start running without you again. These three steps should help:

Step 1: Sell less stuff to more people.

Many companies become too dependent on their owners when offering many products and services. It's harder to find and train employees that can deliver on diverse offerings than it is to find and train specialists! The secret is to pick something that makes your business unique and focus on finding more customers rather than pouring your energy into developing more and more different things to sell.

Take Gabriela Isturiz as an example. She cofounded Bellefield Systems, a company offering a timekeeping application for lawyers. Over the next seven years, Bellefield grew to 45 employees. Although many different kinds of businesses bill by the hour, Isturiz kept her application focused exclusively on timekeeping for lawyers, which is one of the reasons she was able to integrate with 32 practice management platforms also used exclusively by lawyers—a big reason Bellefield's product was so sticky. It worked out well for Isturiz: she grew 50% yearly with EBITDA margins of more than 25% when she sold her company in 2019.

Step 2: Systemize it.

Next, focus on creating systems and procedures for employees to follow. For example, Nashville-based Bryan Clayton built Peachtree, a landscaping business. Most lawn care companies are mom-and-pop operations, but Clayton built Peachtree up to 150 employees before he sold it to LUSA for a seven-figure windfall.

What made Peachtree so unique? Clayton focused on documenting his processes. For example, one of his customers was a McDonald's franchisee who owned 40 locations. He was frustrated by how many people discarded cigarette butts in his drive-through, so Clayton offered to clear the debris from the lanes as part of his lawn care process. He then trained his employees on the drive-through clean-up process he had created so it was followed across all 40 of the customer's locations.

Step 3: Outsource it.

Next, consider outsourcing what you're not very good at. For example, a company in the sleep aid arena built its annual revenue to $10 million before selling it for $34.5 million. The founder saw his role as all about selling it, not making it. That meant he outsourced the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution, ensuring he and his team could focus completely on just selling the organization.

It's natural for a leader to step in during a crisis, but that's not sustainable in the long run. Pull yourself out of the "doing," and you'll build a valuable company that's much less stressful to pilot.

How much time do you spend on vs. in your business? Download our free ebook to thoroughly assess and evaluate your productivity, and check out more articles focused on getting out of the weeds and into the strategizing, leading, invention, and development work crucial to your business's long-term success – and your fulfillment as a leader!

Hallie Knox
Post by Hallie Knox
June 22, 2023
Hallie Knox graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a Bachelors in English Literature, and quickly followed her passion for words and story into a career in content writing. She's loved working on everything from blog posts to marketing emails to internal reports for clients in consulting, education, tech, and beyond. Hallie has been involved in various writing projects for Acumen since April 2022, and is thrilled to officially join the team as our Content Writer! Aside from her writing and editing work, Hallie spent a few years as a literacy and special education teacher, and continues to serve part-time as an educator for a fully outdoor forest school on the side. A "missionary kid" who grew up moving all over Europe, Asia, and the Balkans, she is now settled in Boise, Idaho, where she reads avidly, cooks experimentally, attends St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church, and spends time with her twin daughters, husband, and their two big goofy dogs.