Real business story

Work on your business – not in your business

A common mistake business owners make is spending all their time working in the business, not on it. To be successful, you must make time to focus on the bigger picture.
Claire Ladkin

By delegating effectively, Claire Ladkin has freed herself up to work on parts of the business only she can lead on

Many business leaders try to do everything single-handedly because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that it will ensure the job is done properly. But by taking on too many of the day-to-day tasks you are not focusing on what is truly important – growing and improving your business.

Every second you spend on tasks that can be delegated or automated is precious time that could be spent planning, problem solving or goal setting.

Don’t get bogged down by mundane tasks

Business leaders are responsible for setting goals, planning for the future and ensuring the company grows. However, many fall into the trap of working in the company like an employee, not pushing it forward like a leader.

In the early days, performing mundane duties might be an inevitability. As your business grows, it is essential to delegate mundane tasks so you can focus on being a visionary.

For Claire Ladkin, founder of All About the Cooks, an online platform that connects home cooks with local customers, it is important to identify when your energy can be put to better use.

“Sometimes there can be quite a lot of emails coming in from cooks and customers. If I’m not careful I can spend all day doing those five-minute jobs and will neglect the overall strategy,” Claire said.

By delegating certain responsibilities, Claire is free to focus on things like seeking investment, which are crucial to growth.

Automation is another great way to avoid mundane duties. Developing templates for things like marketing campaigns and newsletters is also useful. Once you’ve set the standard it’s easier to give to your team members to follow.

“It’s a graft at the start, but when you make the switch [to delegating] it’s really liberating because you can focus on operations,”

Larkin Cen, director, Woky Ko

Learn to let go

Another trap business leaders can fall into is micromanaging. For Larkin Cen, director of Woky Ko, learning to let go was one of the hardest things when he expanded his Asian restaurant concept to several sites.

In the early days, Larkin said he worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week managing every aspect of his business.

“I’m very hands-on and like to do things myself but I’ve learned to let go. As the business has grown, I’ve needed to step back and focus on the big picture. My role is ultimately to make high-quality big decisions. In order to do that I had to let go of some of the day-to-day stuff,” he said.

Make yourself redundant

The solution came from realising he had to make himself redundant – Larkin’s mindset shifted – and the answers of how to do it flowed from there.

“There’s lots of ways to do it, but it’s mainly delegation. It’s a slow burn because you have to find the right people, then delegate and trust,” he said.

The tasks that were taking up the most time were HR, financial administration – such as invoicing – and marketing.

Structure is really important to making sure people can successfully take on tasks. Team members need to be working on things regularly, so they can build up expertise.

“When you’re a single-site operation, you’re the life and soul of the business. The marketing, the finance, everything. And rightly it should. As a single site you can’t afford that back of house infrastructure.

“It’s a graft at the start, but when you make the switch it’s really liberating because you can focus on operations,” said Larkin.

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Top takeaways

As a business leader, your responsibility is setting goals, planning for the future and ensuring the company grows.

To avoid getting bogged down by mundane duties, delegate tasks to others.

Technology can do a lot of the heavy lifting.