Letting Go – The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma

Having worked for many a small business in my day, and being an entrepreneur myself now, I have had the unique opportunity to see businesses grow and how the entrepreneur grows (or doesn’t grow) with it.  It’s a great example of a leadership lid because the business will grow to a certain point and then will either slow down drastically and stagnate completely.  It is not a factor of the economy or industry changes, but more a matter of the lack of changes internally.  The entrepreneur simply doesn’t grow his leadership enough to be ready for how the organization needs to change to accommodate corporate growth.

Wearing Many Hats is Heavy

letting go - too many hatsYou see, when you first start out you are quite often the only person doing anything or at the very least everything revolves around you.  It was your vision and your initiative that got things off the ground, so naturally you feel that you and you alone are responsible for success or failure of this venture.  And so you are the executive management, the accounting department, the sales manager, the fulfillment department, the development head, and perhaps even the janitor.

And then success happens.  Sales are up!  Customers can’t get enough of you.  You have to add staff, hire or appoint department managers, expand inventory, install processes, get more office space, create new products, adopt more formalized accounting procedures, and more!  You are spending more and more time in the office, being pulled in multiple directions, and things are bottle-necking because they have to wait for you to come up with a solution or put your stamp of approval on one.

THIS is the crisis moment.  It becomes a crisis because you haven’t yet learned to let go.  When the company has grown to the point where things are waiting on you, then it is time to decide what things you want to keep control of and what you want to let go of and trust others to carry the load.  When you can let go of things and trust the people you have hired to pick up the slack, then the pace of the business can continue and you can grow.  If you insist on keeping your finger in every pie, most of the pies will not come out right.  In addition, you will become weary and burned out and then……another small business bites the dust.

The Simple Solution – 80/20

Apply the 80/20 rule here.  Eighty percent of your efforts should be directed towards the 20 percent of things that you and only you can do; such as visioning for the future and preparing your legacy.  Look at what you do now and think about the things you do daily and weekly.  If someone else in the company can do it at least 80 percent as good as you, let it go.  If it does not focus on the primary thrust of your business, let it go and let someone else do it.  This is an important step in your leadership growth, not only because of what it does for you, but also what it does for your business and most importantly for the people in your business.  It allows others to grow and become more engaged and take responsibility for the profitability of your business.

“The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it. “
Teddy Roosevelt

Half the Battle

Easy, right?  Not even close!  You will likely resist this vehemently.  After all, how can you let any of this go and let someone else do it!  You created this, YOU had the vision, and how can anyone else know enough to do it the way you want it done!

We will talk about THAT tomorrow.

Action Plan

  • Apply the 80/20 rule.  What are the 20 percent of things that you and only you can truly do?  Be honest with yourself on this.
  • Make a list of what you are going to let go of.  Next to each one, write the name of the person to whom you will release it.


Focus or Flurry – Too Busy

Non-stop from the moment you get up until it’s time to put your head on the pillow.  Personal and professional schedules often overlap.  You spend a good amount of time driving from location to location.  Sometimes you cut activities short in order to rush on to the next one.  When you are ready for bed you are totally exhausted and can’t seem to catch up on rest.

too busyYou probably know someone like this.  You may BE someone like this.  It is tell-tale symptoms of someone who is too busy.

There is nothing wrong with being busy.  Busy keeps us active and keeps us from wasting time focusing on the negatives of our lives.  It’s not being busy that is the issue, it’s HOW we are being busy.  Are we busy with things that are targeted or are we simply busy with activities?  Busyness that is not targeted and purpose-driven can lead to a distinct feeling of emptyness.  We are so busy that we must be getting somewhere, but why does it still feel incomplete.  Our busyness has no real meaning.  We spend our time in flurry.

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”   Socrates

“It is not enough to be busy.  Even the ants do that.  The question is: what are we busy about?”
Henry David Thoreau

Not sure if you are one of those who are too busy?  Here are 7 signs that you are too busy:

  1. You are always surviving.  You can’t remember what open time on your calendar looked like or the last time you were ahead of schedule.
  2. Meals coincide or overlap with other events.  If you don’t have time to sit down and simply enjoy a little family meal time or quiet meal time, that’s definitely a sign.
  3. You tend to be tired even in the mornings.  You can get rest from all the flurry.
  4. You can’t remember the last time you read a book.
  5. You have interruptions to your interruptions.
  6. You cannot consistently set aside a time-frame for a specific activity, like exercise.
  7. You do not engage in intentional, daily growth

Focus or Flurry – Making the Change

We must make the transformation from being too busy to being productively busy.  We have to move from flurry to focus.  And it starts with the decision to do so.  You must resolve that you are tired of being tired, you are fed up with not getting where you want to be.  It doesn’t solve your problems, but it helps provide the resolve you are going to need to implement this.

Action Plan

Create calendar blocks.  Each block should be at least an hour preferably but certainly no less than 30 minutes each.  You won’t need to block every waking moment, you are simply trying to make sure that you set aside specific activity blocks.  You will protect these blocks ruthlessly, letting nothing short of real emergencies (spurting blood, sinkholes, hurricanes, earthquakes) get in the way.  You need these blocks labelled on your daily calendar:

  1. Spiritual Time.  I call this devotional time but you can call it what you want.  The point is you need daily time dedicated to developing your spiritual life.  This helps make everything else better, it is THAT critical.  Ideally, this is your first block of the day.  Get up earlier if need be to have time for it.  I find that’s what works best for me, before everyone else gets up to have my devotional time.  If you have kids, it’s even better to let them see you engaged in this daily as it also encourages them to develop the habit.
  2. Hard Time.  This block is set aside for doing things you know you need to do that day but avoid and postpone until it is too late to do them.  Set aside time for it and strictly do not allow yourself to do anything else during that time frame until the hard thing is done.
  3. Personal Growth Time.  A block designed for you to intentionally grow yourself.  Remember my 1% rule:  if you simply grow yourself intentionally by 1% a day you will see exponential results.
  4. Reading Time.  Do nothing but read.  Magazines or trade journals, books, white papers.  Do not spend this time on the newspaper or social media.  We want reading time that feeds us.
  5. Me Time.  A block where no one else but you is your concern.  Do whatever you want as long as it isn’t for someone else.  You need this for your sanity and balance.

Daily Productivity

Wave a stick around and you are bound to hit a pinata full of productivity tips somewhere on the web.  Everyone has their special tips on how to make your day more productive as an entrepreneur or small business executive or simply as a worker bee.  Some of them are quite good.  I am especially a fan of Helen Raptoplous (also called Helen Rappy).  She provides practical, easy to apply steps to manage your day more effectively and increase your productivity.  When you can get more out of yourself in a day, whether working for yourself or someone else, you will be more be productive.  You will achieve.  You will get noticed.  And you will be in demand as a result.

Dream to the Next Level


It’s been my experience that the ones who are most productive are driven; and they are almost always driven by a dream.  They have a vision of who they want to be, what they want to do, how they want to add value to others.

When you feel that you have something special you can offer people in this world and it can make a difference in their lives and yours, you are more inclined to look for ways to be more effective about it.  

No doubt about it, living your dream creates a new world with new possibilities and leads to to find out how to best share it with others.

That’s not to say that the dream alone is sufficient.  You still must focus on daily growth, learning more about what you do and how you do it.  You must learn to be intentionally productive.  Many times we are “accidental achievers”; things get accomplished and we are not exactly sure how.  What we want is to not only achieve our desired results, we want to know how we got there so we can repeat it.

Start that Dream

So, if the best way you can be highly productive is to work to realize your dream, then take a look at what you are doing today.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I doing, small or large, to work towards my dream?
  • What one thing, my 1%, can I use to grow today?
  • What will I do tomorrow to build on that?

work and more work

Work and Motivation

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is miserable.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s a sometimes popular thing to complain about how much work we have to do.  Or the type of work we have to do.  Or even the fact we have to do work

at all.  “Man, I got so much work to do, I don’t know when I’ll ever finish!”  “Wow, I’ll sure be glad when the work is done!”  We have the wrong attitude about work and it can be hazardous to our employment outlook and our mental health.

Made to Work

The truth is that we were designed for work.  Our bodies, our minds, everything about us is designed to toil and sometimes sweat.  Some work with their hands, some with their heads, some with both.  However we work, we were created for it.  Work benefits us as much as we provide benefit through the work we do.

And the type of work doesn’t matter.  Someone who labors at farming or construction or janitorial services provides obvious benefits to their people or organizations they serve.  So does someone who manages those functions, or even consults with leaders to help them get better results.  The key is to recognize that someone is benefiting from the work you do.  I am reminded of a TED Talk from Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs and an Eagle Scout) a few years ago.  In it, he talked about some of the dirtiest jobs he shadowed and participated in.  The common thread he saw was that the people doing that work were almost always happy.  They went about their job whistling and went home tired but content.  (view about 10 minutes in).

Work Benefits Us

Work provides benefits beyond the paycheck.  Beyond what we earn, work benefits us by

  • Providing a sense of purpose and self-worth
  • An avenue for creative expression of ourselves
  • Focus on others
  • Development of social skills and contacts
  • Development of new skills
  • Opportunity to direct our giftedness to the benefit of others


I realize that not all those benefits are provided to everyone in every job; but that’s more a factor of the job chosen than the job itself.  Or perhaps even more to the point, it’s a factor of choosing NOT to find the benefits rather than the benefits not existing.

But overall, the function of where we spend at least 40 hours of our 168 hours in a week (roughly 25%), should and potentially can provide benefits that extend past the printed slip of paper (or direct deposit) we receive regularly.

It helps make us what we are and shapes our identity.

Work Crisis


The challenge we face in a time of high unemployment is that for many it takes this potential fulfillment away.  We have young adults fresh out of college with all the ambition and even arrogance that comes with being a college graduate who quickly lose heart when they find that the perfect job is not sitting on the other side of dais waiting for them.  We have people 50 and over who lose jobs because of cutbacks who are deemed unemployable because of age discrimination.  All have something of value to give, yet do not have a place to share that.

The result is that frustration builds, malaise sets in, and even the most powerful speech by Tony Robbins or Zig Ziglar can make an impact.

Forget the Economy.  The only saving grace for it is that we have to get people back to making a contribution, whether they are 25, 55, or 75.  When we are making a contribution, our self-esteem rises, our confidence surges.  When we are confident, we are more likely to spend.  Consumer spending boosts the economy.  A rising economy benefits everyone.

Did we just solve our problem?

P.S.  If you are one of those jobless in the economy, don’t let yourself sink into the abyss of self-pity and discouragement.  Take at least some of your time each week as you search for employment volunteering in your community.  The social relationships developed and the opportunity to express yourself will keep your spirits up for campaign, while providing a sense of contribution to your community.  I know, it can seem like you are wasting time you should be spending looking for a job, but in the long run it will give your a better outlook and more positive attitude so you can make a better impact in that interview.  And it shows you are a person who gets things done and doesn’t just sit around idle.

Workin’ 9 to 5

It may be a way to make a living but it’s not a way to make a career.  Or a life for that matter.

Quote of the Day on Hard Work

Hard Work WinsI shared the following on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as my thought of the day:

“Hard work spotlights the character of people;
some turn up their sleeves,
some turn up their noses,
and some don’t turn up at all.”
-Sam Ewing

It’s important to note that it doesn’t speak to building character as much as revealing character.  It’s similar to how many say that a crisis builds character; but it doesn’t, it simply reveals it.  Hard work reveals character by the way in which we react to it.  When we have been trained that hard work is a part of life and a vital part of getting things done, we are apt to dive in and lend a hand when the time comes.  Even more to the point, if we jump in without first being asked, it speaks to our character even more.

Hard Work is Beneath Me

As the quote also points out, some refuse to be a part of it.  Hard work is beneath their station or status.  This is especially prevalent in the workplace.  The manager who deals out the work assignments, closes the door to their office, and focuses simply on the end result.  Now, I will point out that thinking is very hard work as well.  When you are looking ahead, anticipating problems, mulling solutions, brainstorming ways to move your company and your employees forward, searching for new, innovative ways to add value to those you work with; all of that requires, even demands, a managers attention.  It is a hard working manager or leader who spends time in the hard work on thinking.  The problem is that in most cases management generally doesn’t do much of that either.

Those who think that hard work is below their station or their position are not really in touch with the reality of their business.  It also misses that most of the most successful businessman and entrepreneurs spend their time in both mental and physical hard work.

  • Sam Walton was well-known for going into the trenches, visiting stores, working with and talking with employees on all levels; stock persons, truck drivers, greeters, and all.  He spent time paying attention to the details, thinking of  new ways to offer more and create a better experience for his customers.
  • Mark Cuban was a dot com sensation, but few know that in his first startup he worked long hours and didn’t take a vacation for seven years.
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico, worked overnight shifts as a receptionist while completing a degree at Yale.  She often puts in 13 hour days in the office, takes mail home to read (not recommended), and, by the way, raises two daughters.
  • William “Biff’ Comte, CEO of Accentcare, habitually “job shadows” employees and asks questions about their work to understand what he can do to best serve their needs and provide the best experience for employees and patients.  In addition to all those other CEO duties.

Hard work is essential to our success.  Sometimes that is get the hands dirty work and sometimes it is put the mind in high gear work.  In fact, the most successful spend more time in the mind in high gear part than the other.

It’s Hard Work Time, Where’s Fitz?

Then, of course, there are those who simply don’t even bother to show up when it’s time for hard work.  Having in the past worked for a few government organizations and enterprise-level companies, you will find quite a few there.  They seem to be everywhere but at their desk; not because they are engaged in work but because they are engaged in anything BUT their work.  Curiously enough, they are typically the most negative people you will work with.

Avoid them.  They will just suck the life right out of you!

The Hard Work of Thinking

So, as we discussed, our most productive hard work and the work that will be help us fulfill more of our potential is the time we spend in thought.  Here’s a few ways to be more effective at thinking:

  1. Block out time on your calendar for “Thinking Time”.  Guard it ruthlessly.
  2. Have an agenda for what you plan to think about.  Otherwise, you will just have random thoughts
  3. Always be positive.  Think positive.  Look for positive lessons and results from your experiences.
  4. Think in gradual time frames.  Think a week ahead, a month ahead, a year ahead, five years ahead.
  5. Focus on what you are doing right and should continue to do and what you need to change

Your hard work on thinking your way through things brings clarity, focus, and purpose.