Why You Should Fire Yourself From Your Small Business


By Ben Goldstein

One of the hardest challenges of owning a business is giving up control. The business is your baby, and often it seems easier to just do everything yourself instead of constantly explaining to employees how you want things done.

The problem is, being a control-freak is exhausting. Trying to have a hand in every aspect of your business is the reason why 19% of business owners work 60+ hours per week. That doesn’t leave much time for rest, family, or any kind of social life outside of your business’s doors. The stress from being overworked can also have a significant impact on your physical and emotional well being.

If your business cards say “owner,” but you’re doing the work of a bookkeeper, sales manager, customer support specialist, and busboy, read on…

The pitfalls of doing it all

As an owner, it’s your job to build an excellent team and pursue growth initiatives that will drive the success of your business. You have the vision, and it’s the responsibility of your employees to execute it.

The more time you spend on menial labor—or any task that one of your employees could handle instead—the less time you have to address the big picture. Without a strategist at the top focused on important decisions, your business will stagnate.

An over-involved business owner also has a discouraging effect on staff. Employees are happiest and most engaged when they’re made to feel like trusted business partners and periodically rewarded with new responsibilities. Business owners who do everything themselves send a clear message to staff: You’re not capable enough to do your job. And who would want to work for a person like that?

Related: Top 10 Reasons Why Employees Quit Their Jobs

The benefits of “firing yourself”

By stepping away from the day-to-day tasks of your business, you’ll be able to develop the talents of your team while positioning yourself to take on new initiatives and fine-tune your operations.

Firing yourself from your business has a number of positive side-effects:

  • Increased productivity: Doing everything yourself means your efforts are limited by the number of hours in the day. Delegating tasks to staff allows you to multiply those efforts so you can accomplish a lot more as an organization.
  • Reduced stress: When was the last time you had a free weekend to yourself—or took a real vacation? You might take pride in your ability to juggle everything 24/7, but constant stress is terrible for your health. Less work means your body and mind can actually take a break once in a while.
  • Better insight into your business: When you’re fighting in the trenches every day, you can miss potential opportunities, as well as incoming crises. Taking a bird’s eye view of your operations allows you to focus on revenue trends, changes in your industry, and team relationships.
  • A happier, more engaged staff: Once your employees see you leading rather than micromanaging or demanding control, they’ll be energized to do their best. Plus, giving employees more responsibility shows them that there’s room for career growth in your business, and it’s not just a dead-end job.

4 tips for replacing yourself in your small business

Shifting your focus from labor to management won’t happen overnight, but it will be worth the effort. Here are four things you’ll need to do in order to make the transition:

1. Create a system of operations

Need everything done your way? As long as you formalize your system, put it in writing, and make sure all your employees understand what’s expected of them, you can still retain control over your operations—it’s just that you won’t have to be on-site holding their hands anymore.

Being the only person in your business who knows how everything should run is completely unsustainable. Having a playbook for employees to follow means that the business won’t be thrown into chaos if you go on vacation, retire, or get sick.

2. Identify the gaps and start hiring — or outsourcing

Taking a less hands-on role in your business means you might need to bring on additional staff. If you’ve been operating your business with a skeleton crew, take some time to identify the positions you absolutely need to hire for.

For example, if you run a restaurant or fitness center, you’ll want to hire a general manager to make sure your daily operations are running smoothly and your employees have a first point of contact when the bathrooms are out of order.

For larger companies, you may want to consider hiring a head of sales or a customer service manager, to make sure your most important customer-facing roles are covered by a dedicated specialist.

On the other hand, there are many business responsibilities that don’t require full-time employees, but still need to be covered in order to ensure that your business stays healthy. Consider outsourcing tasks like bookkeeping and payroll through a professional employer organization, or hiring a consultant to help you with online marketing.

3. Train and promote from within

Focusing on leadership means empowering your best people to run the ship without you. Always keep an eye out for employees who take initiative on new projects or go above and beyond their job descriptions—those are the people you want to want to train up so they can take some of the responsibilities off your plate.

Promoting your best shift-workers to assistant managers and your best assistant managers to GMs is a lot cheaper than recruiting talent externally, and the workers you develop will be grateful and loyal.

Just make sure that when you promote an employee, you reward them with more than a new job title and a heavier workload. Retaining your best staff members means making an “extraordinary investment” in their salary, benefits, and ongoing education.

4. Change your mindset

According to a 2016 study by the Electronic Transactions Association, business owners value their time at $170 per hour. So, why would you ever spend your time doing the kind of work that you’d pay someone else $17/hour for?

Replacing yourself requires a necessary change in mindset: Stop working in your business and start working on your business. Every minute you spend answering phones or hauling around inventory costs your company money. Get other people to do the small stuff so you can spend your time focusing on growth.

The key to this change is learning how to say “no”. For business owners, dealing with the constant barrage of minor requests from staff and stakeholders is one of the most dangerous eaters of time and motivation. It also leads to decision fatigue that makes you far less effective as the day wears on.

Don’t accept it anymore. Put managers and department heads in place to handle the nuts-and-bolts of your business operations, and give them the trust and authority to make decisions without you. Once you realize you don’t actually need to do it all, your relationship to your business will be much more productive, and far more profitable.

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