Are you a slave to your business?
One of the biggest reasons why most people want to become entrepreneurs is the freedom and flexibility of being your own boss, and running your own business.
While this dream of freedom and flexibility is possible, there are many business owners who cannot leave their business, even for a single day, because they fear something could go wrong?
As a result, they have to always show up to personally oversee the business.
They’re the ones who say things like: “If you really want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.”
If you’re like this, or know someone who runs their business like this, the truth is, you don’t really have a business.
What you have is a job. You’re actually self-employed.
In this article, I’ll share with you some strategies I have observed that work well for entrepreneurs who are successfully running their businesses with a model I like to call ‘remote control management’.
By applying these strategies, you too can step aside from your business once in a while (but not for very extended periods) to enjoy a vacation, spend time with your family, and engage in other activities you love.
A well-run business should liberate you, not enslave you.
While the strategies in this article have proven to be highly effective, they may not work in every industry. However, they’re very likely to work in most.
Especially in the early life of a business, most entrepreneurs are fully engaged and hands-on in the running of the business. This is very normal. However, for businesses that have existed for a few years, the strategies here can be used to free up more time so you can play a more relaxed role in managing the business.
That’s how I think remote control management should work.
So, let’s take a look at the strategies…
1. Surveillance: Use the ‘God’ effect
An acquaintance of mine, a former banker turned beauty entrepreneur, owns one of the most promising and fastest growing chains of beauty salons in Nigeria.
The first time we met, I couldn’t help but notice how he wouldn’t take his eyes off the screen of a tablet computer (a Samsung Galaxy Note) on the table in front of him. After thirty minutes of hesitation, I just had to ask what he was watching.
“I’m looking at one of my salons”, he told me. “This thing looks just like a reality TV set”, he smiled.
I joined him on the action and watched as his employees, at a salon located a long distance away, worked on the shop floor.
With a modest investment of about $400 per location, Mike (not his real name) recently installed CCTV cameras at strategic locations in all his beauty salons. While he cannot be physically present at all these locations, he has an ‘all-seeing eye’ that keeps him on top of things at his business outlets.
Although it can be tempting to keep watching all the action, Mike admits that he doesn’t have to. He can always go through all the recordings, if and when there’s a need to investigate suspicious activity.
He also says that all his employees know that a surveillance system is installed and he could be watching. They know the boss has ‘God-like powers’ and that somehow keeps everyone in their best behaviour. And this gives him the flexibility to focus on other things while the business runs.
Surveillance can be a powerful way of keeping an eye on your business without being there physically.
Banks, factories and hotels have been using this tool for decades with great success. And now, as the prices of surveillance equipment (like CCTV systems) have significantly dropped, entrepreneurs and small business owners can have ‘God-like powers’ too.
However, it’s important to note that the surveillance strategy produces the best results when used with some of the other strategies in this article.
2. Automation: Leverage the power of technology
It’s remarkable the things you can do with technology these days and how it can transform your business.
One of the biggest loopholes facing most small businesses is cash. Cash is good when you’re there to make sure it’s being collected. But when you’re not there, cash is risky, because it can easily be stolen by your staff or anybody.
With the growing availability of Point of Sale (POS) systems and mobile money (especially effective in East Africa), more small businesses are accepting non-cash payments. That way, the money goes straight from the customer to your bank account, where it’s much safer. J
This is just one example of what automation can do for your business.
Apart from cash, another way your business can suffer losses is inventory (stock). Especially in retail businesses where there are a lot of items for sale, it can be difficult to keep track of your stock. It’s no wonder there are usually high incidences of theft in such businesses.
To reduce or avoid these losses, you can invest in a barcoding and check-out system.
A friend of mine is currently setting up a beauty products and cosmetics store. And to guard against the theft of items when he’s not there, he’s installed a barcoding system.
This way, all products you purchase are tagged with a unique bar code and registered on the system. Instead of keeping track of your stock the traditional way, the system records, and keeps track of your inventory, and it’s all automated.
The truth is, there are tasks that machines and technology can be trusted to do better than employees. That’s why banks have almost entirely replaced their human tellers with ATMs.
Automation is faster, safer, reduces the risk of theft and provides you with valuable information you can use to run your business from afar, without being there to supervise things yourself.
3. Exploit the ‘human factor’: Your employees can become your greatest assets
Anybody who has run a business before knows that the most difficult part of running any business is managing people, especially your employees.
It’s a common complaint I get all the time from my SME clients. In many businesses, employees steal and can often sabotage the business. It’s no surprise that most business owners spend most of their time ‘supervising’ employees.
However, I have seen a few small businesses where employees work very well without supervision. And the business owner doesn’t need to hang around that much.
And trust me, it’s not a matter of salary. Employees are still likely to steal from, and frustrate your business even when they’re well paid.
So what’s the secret?
The secret is ‘motivation’. When you use the right motivational triggers, your employees will run your business as if it’s theirs. They’ll break down walls for you and dedicate themselves to building and transforming your business.
If you really want to understand everything about motivational triggers; what they are and why they work, I would have to refer you to Frederick Herzberg’s work on motivational theory.
Herzberg, who was an industrial psychologist, spent his life studying people at work. He successfully identified five key motivators that work wonders on people. And guess what? Money (salary) isn’t one of them.
Achievement, recognition, advancement (promotion), responsibility and the nature of the work itself are the true motivators that keep employees committed, loyal and willing to advance your business. That’s because, these motivators tie their personal success to your business’s success.
If you can build a team of employees who are properly motivated, you can take several steps away from your business and watch it work like a machine, running itself.
If you’d like to learn more about Herzberg’s motivational theory (and I strongly recommend you do), read more about it here: Frederick Herzberg’s Motivational Theory.
4. Partnerships: Two good heads are better than one
Every time I speak to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a business, I always tell them there are three most essential ingredients you need to build a successful business. They are: a viable business idea, capital and execution.
Execution is usually the hardest element of this triangle because it involves the active day-to-day ‘hustle’ required to keep and grow any business.
So, if you don’t have time to do the daily grind, one great option is to find a business partner who will execute. Yours is to provide the business idea and/or capital, while the more active partner runs the business.
When you find the right partner, it’s like a ‘marriage made in heaven’. As long as there’s trust, a shared vision and determination to succeed, partnerships can be an amazing way for you to own and run a business without being there.
I am a strong advocate of partnerships, because of the synergy and opportunities it provides. In a previous article, I shared my personal experiences with business partnerships. That article is very valuable if you’re strongly considering the possibilities of business partnership.
You can read the full article here: The Power of Business Partnership….
Are You Afraid of Stepping Away From Your Business?
If the reason you started a business is to afford the flexibility and freedom that entrepreneurship provides, then you should seriously consider the points in this article.
It’s important to note here that while the strategies in this article can be successfully applied on any business, they are most effective when used in combination. That way, the weakness of one strategy is compensated for by the strengths of another.
Unless you plan for your business to remain small, as it grows you will need to look for better ways to manage your business without losing sleep or burning yourself out.