The key to achieving work-life balance is to step back from daily business operations and make time to achieve all of your goals.
Stepping back from a business doesn’t mean leaving it, especially for business owners that don’t want to retire yet or love working in their business. But it’s for the health of the business and for owners to have the fullest possible life.
There are six factors that must be present for business owners to step back from the day-to-day running of the business:
1. Accountabilities and responsibilities are clearly allocated. It’s key to prepare a list of all activities within the business from planning and sales processes to invoice management and other smaller tasks. Someone in the business needs to be accountable for each of these activities and that accountability needs to be formalised. This can be a one-page position commitment for each role with their accountabilities and responsibilities listed and signed off. It should also include key performance indicators (KPIs) so managers can monitor the key responsibilities of the role to make sure they’re on track.
2. Processes are codified. This entails defining how processes are done in the business to ensure they consistently meet the appropriate standards. This removes essential business operations knowledge from people’s heads and puts it in a format where everyone can benefit from the knowledge. This also means that new employees can become productive much sooner, and existing employees can work more efficiently without reinventing processes.
3. The culture of the business is strong. A strong culture is one where all staff adopt a set of beliefs and behaviours, all the time, that are appropriate to that business. There are three requirements that will almost always create a strong culture: the key elements are defined by a wide range of staff; each point of culture is articulated so that it’s clear what that behaviour or value looks like; and the culture needs to be brought to life, which can be as simple as putting the values up on the walls or giving awards for examples of cultural compliance. The culture needs to be real so that it lives on regardless of whether the business owner is physically present.
4. Financial controls are in place. Disciplined processes need to be in place, from cashflow management and forecasting to annual budgeting and expense approvals. It’s preferable to see a range of financial reports monthly to get useful updates on the business’s financial health. It’s essential to create rules around financial decision-making, the responsibility of the person who will manage the business.
5. A business dashboard has been set up. A business dashboard should give the owner a good picture of the business beyond the financials. Ideally, this dashboard will include objective information such as sales leads being generated, customer satisfaction information, and employee feedback. It should also include some subjective observations around new opportunities (new markets, alliances) or potential risks (new competitors, new regulations).
6. There is a good flow of information across the business. Once all processes are in place, it’s important not to overlook communications. The right information needs to be shared with the right people at the right time. This can range from financial information to sales updates and business plans or personal development shared at meetings, via email or conference calls. Regular meetings with the manager will be key to ensure the business remains on track and to provide support where needed.
Once done, the owner can free up time to enjoy life, focus on strategic growth opportunities, and add more value to the business.
Andrew Laurie, CEO, entrepreneur and business coach