Tim couldn't believe it. He'd miss another deadline. He was working so hard. And, his wife was on his case for missing another one of Peter's baseball games.
With all that he had on his plate; he couldn't find time to complete an advertising campaign for one of his largest customers. Tim was buried and he didn't see a way out. On top of all this overwhelm, he wasn't making a lot of money with his advertising agency. He didn't understand what was wrong. He worked hard; he had some decent customers; but he couldn't make it all work.
Tim had attended a time management seminar a while back held by a guy called Coach Russ. He remembered Russ saying something about vision and goals and all kinds of other nonsense. He wondered, "How on earth can I take time to create a vision and set goals; when I can't find the time to meet one of my most important customer's deadlines?"
Tim decided to shut his office door and ignore the rest of the world for a few minutes while he found Coach Russ's business card. He needed someone to help him extricate himself from his habitual busyness; and felt like Coach Russ may be able to give him some words of wisdom.
Tim couldn't get Russ on his first try and left a voice message on his phone, "Help! This is Tim Carter. I attended a time management workshop that you put on a while ago; and I’m buried. Please call back at 888-777-6666.
Russ called back a few minutes later, "Hi, Tim. It sounds like you're frazzled. How can I help?"
Tim responded, "Thanks for calling back so soon, Russ. I feel like I’m buried with work, can't manage to break away to attend my son's baseball games, and everyone is super angry with me. What should I do?"
Russ knew that it wasn't time for a long-winded solution. Tim was in emergency mode. Russ calmly responded, "Tim, take a deep breath and just relax."
"I can't relax. I've got stuff to do."
Russ repeated, "Simply take the next 30-seconds and breath in and out. I'll still be here, and we can talk when you're done."
Tim didn't feel like he had a choice so he did as Russ had instructed. Russ led him by telling him to breath in and then breath out. He had to admit, this breathing exercise was calming. However, it didn't do a lot to solve his problem.
After the mini-breathing exercise, Russ began, "It sounds like you attended my workshop on time management, so you must know that the first step is to create a vision sometime in the future, right?"
Tim reacted, "That's great! How am I supposed to find the time to create a 5-year vision, if I can't even meet a stupid deadline?"
Russ responded, "Currently, you're reacting to everything around you. By taking a block of time to create an image of what your business will look like in five years, you're taking control. By taking control, you'll be able to deliberately meet deadlines, attend your son's baseball games, and create substantial personal wealth."
"That’s a great sales pitch. But I’m not buying. I'm trying everything I can and it's not working."
"Have you tried to write down your 5-year vision?"
"No. But I don't see how that will change my present."
Russ could see that he was running into an obstacle with Tim, so he changed the subject, "How many people do you have working in your advertising firm right now?"
"I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. I can't really afford to hire more people."
Russ repeated the question, "How many people are in your firm?"
"I have five employees including myself."
"Okay. What if you knew that to complete the work that you currently have in your firm, you needed ten people?"
Tim chuckled, "Then I would say we'd be out of business because we don't have enough revenue to pay the salaries of ten people."
Russ could see that this wouldn't be easy. He decided to take yet a different approach, "In the history of mankind, have any advertising firms like yours managed to succeed?"
"Yes. I suppose many have succeeded. I must be doing something wrong."
"I want you to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes. I know you have a lot of work to do. It sounds like you need to make up for some lost time on a client's deadline. I want you to carve out four hours in the next few weeks to do an organization chart with a financial forecast on how your business will operate in the next five years."
"I'm not sure how a forecast will help. But you’re the business coach."
Russ e-mailed Tim some documents to help him create his five-year vision; and they set up an appointment for a call in two weeks.
Russ was surprised when the appointment didn't get cancelled; and Tim called with his homework completed as scheduled.
Russ asked, "How did it go?"
Tim responded, "I did my future vision. But I'm still not sure how this is going to help my present situation."
"I get it. Let's forget about your present problems and focus on this future vision of yours. Tell me some details about how your company will look in five years."
"Our advertising firm will have ten employees and we will be earning $1.5 Million per year in revenue. I’ll have four full-time marketing professionals, two assistants, two administrative assistants, one salesman and I will manage the entire group."
"Wow, Tim! That sounds wonderful! How much profit is your company making five years from now?"
"We are making $200,000 per year in net profit."
"Great! Tell me. With your five employees today, how much revenue and profit do you earn?"
Tim hesitated. He knew how disconnected his present numbers were from his future vision, "We're making about $500,000 per year in revenue; and we have no profit."
Russ could hear the disappointment in Tim's voice, "It sounds like you made some revelations about your current situation. Would you like to share them with me?"
"Russ, I know our revenue is low right now; but we're working as hard as we can. I can't imagine working any harder."
"How hard is your crew working in your five-year vision?"
"Not that hard really. In fact, we have assistants and I estimated normal working hours with plenty of vacation for everyone. In fact, I have enough free time to catch my son’s baseball games."
Russ persisted, "Why is your future company working so well; but your current staff of five is frazzled, missing deadlines and you're missing your son's baseball games?"
"You're the business coach. Isn't that what you're supposed to tell me?"
"I have some thoughts, but it does you no good for me to tell you what I think. It's more important for you to make this revelation on your own."
"I just don't know the answer to your question."
"I'll tell you what. Think about it; and call me tomorrow. I'm sure you’ll come up with some amazing answers."
They ended their call; and Tim took the rest of the day off thinking about the question Russ asked him. He was frustrated that this high-paid business coach was not sharing his wisdom.
Tim called Russ the next day and there was some excitement in his voice.
Tim started, "I can't believe it. I feel like I've been such an idiot. We currently have three people doing marketing work for our clients. Me and two others. When I added up the hours, I noticed that I’m doing most of the work. I'm not sure what the others are doing; but they’re hardly billing any hours. I always thought that we were all swamped. It must have just been me that was doing all of the work."
Russ responded, "Interesting. What do you plan to do about your new revelation?"
"If I fire them, then I’ll have to do all of the work plus I'll have to find two marketing professionals that aren't deadbeats."
"What role do you play in the fact that your other marketing professionals are not billing more hours?"
"What do you mean? I'm working my butt off because they’re slacking."
"When a new client comes in, how do you delegate the work load to your current staff?"
"Russ, there are some accounts I just don't trust to anyone but me."
"Tim, you either need to trust your employees to do the work; or you’ll be forever having time management problems. What will it take for you to trust your employees?"
Tim was silent for about five seconds and then responded, "I suppose I need to check their work. But won't that take even more time?"
"You created a vision of your company five years from now, where you’re checking the work of four marketing professionals. You admitted that you were a manager, not a DOER. In this vision, you said that your firm was earning $1.5 Million per year with plenty of profit. When I asked you the reason, you did your research; and found you’re doing all the work.”
"But I told you, Russ. I just don't trust my employees to do as good of a job as me."
"Bingo! You don't trust your employees. It's not your employee's fault that you don't trust them; it's your thinking that needs to change for you to grow your company without feeling stressed out."
Tim reacted, "How can I change?"
"I'm glad you asked."
Russ went on to explain how Tim needed to delegate and check the work of his employees. He couldn't allow himself to do ANY of the work that was given to his company. He could only fill the role of salesman and overseer. He wouldn't do any of the creative work, regardless of the size of the client.
It was a constant challenge over the next six months for Tim to avoid doing the work of his firm. A few of his customers left because they wanted his work and not the work of his 'flunkies'. Tim resisted the urge to give in... even to these demanding customers. Tim held to his promise to Russ, and he delegated everything.
He did need to fire one of his key employees. Apparently, this employee had grown accustomed to watching Tim work instead of doing his job. Tim hired a replacement who was amazing. In fact, Tim was convinced that his new employee was twice as talented as he was.
The firm grew to $600,000 in revenue over the next year; and then $750,000 the year after that. Tim then decided to hire a salesperson to replace himself; and their firm continued to grow. The customers who had left when they discovered that Tim was no longer doing the work came back because they saw that Tim's firm was doing outstanding work and were meeting deadlines.
The best part of Tim's transition was that he was able to see all of Peter's baseball games; and decided to take ALL Friday's off. It was a completely different life than he had only a few years earlier. His company was doing better, and he was working half the time without the stress.
Let me quickly summarize Tim’s dilemma. He was strapped for time and missing deadlines. It turned out that he had a few employees that weren’t doing their work because Tim didn’t trust them to do a quality job. After Tim delegated his work, he lost a few clients, but then started to grow without doing all the work himself.
Tim’s story seems so obvious to us as we listen to it or read it. And yet, this story is very common to most people who hire me as their business coach.
Tim’s core problem wasn’t really his employees or his problem with trust. Tim’s problem was that he was so busy doing the work of his firm, he couldn’t see his firm from an objective perspective. Once he took a four-hour block of time to create a vision, he finally discovered the dysfunction in his current way of operating.
I find that business owners err in one of two ways. Either they plan all the time and fail to execute their plans. Or they work all the time and fail to take time to plan. Either error will kill your business.
Most planners tend to sit in front of their computer and write plans, use spreadsheets to make grand forecasts and can be quite analytical. In many cases, these brilliant planners can create an entire reality in their minds. As personalities go, most planners are introverts.
If you happen to be a constant planner, I encourage you to connect with people in some way in your business. This could be phone conversations with customers or prospective customers or vendors. It can also be conversations with individual employees who are actively doing the work in your business.
Most workers have grown up in their profession doing the work of their industry. If you’re an engineer, you do engineering. If you’re a plumber, you do plumbing. Most workers feel that if they continue to work, everything will be okay. They believe customers will pay them for their work and that payment will feed their business. In our story, Tim was a worker, and you see how he got trapped.
If you happen to be a worker, I encourage you to block out time at least once a month and possibly once a week, where you do nothing but plan. This planning can be looking at your monthly or quarterly financial statements. It could be drafting an organization chart. Or, you could create a financial forecast or plan a new marketing campaign.
No matter what your habit is now: worker or planner; Ultimately, to grow your company, you’ll gravitate to planning. In the coaching business we call this “working ON your business instead of IN your business”. There are a few exceptions where business owners hire a business manager or CEO to work on their business for them. However, these businesses often take on a different direction once the business owner gives up control… and becomes more of the CEO’s business than the owner’s business.
I write a blog post and record a podcast weekly. I write/talk on business advice, small business turn around stories, political interaction with business, business mindset and spiritual intersection with business matters. If you want to get email reminders when I post something new, please sign up.