By Huiping Iler
Have you ever had the chance to ask yourself what kind of a life you would like to be living? Even though I have asked myself that question once in a while, I had to give it a lot more thought lately, because it is part of a personal growth course that I am taking. A couple of unexpected deaths among some people that I know personally also made me think harder about this (as we know, the founder of Dj Vu died not too long ago, as well as a long time Project Manager from a translation company client of ours, who passed away while playing soccer with his friends).
Since everyone has only one life to live; I would like mine to be an enjoyable one, enriched by interesting experiences and by meaningful relationships with the people that I care about. I want to have a lot of time for myself and experience other cultures from around the world. So how do I achieve this goal and still be highly effective at work -thus obtaining financial independence, as well as self satisfaction from work?
One thing about running my own business, that attracts me the most, is the freedom that it offers. I can be flexible with my work hours and it, more than money, motivates me. But often times, I find it hard to leave work behind and not worry about it. Even though I have come to realize the value of others’ work and the importance of delegating, I have yet to reach the level of management confidence and knowledge that I need not worry. I have built such strong relationships with my clients, that I become concerned when I am not in the office; often fearing that they will just go somewhere else. So in a way, my business is tying me down, and brings me farther away from the kind of life that I want to be living.
So how do we achieve a balance? How do we free ourselves while still being productive? These questions are probably asked by countless entrepreneurs; and there is no easy answer. I thought and thought about it, but could not come to a clear conclusion. So I sent the question to the back of my mind and docked it there. Recently, as if purely by chance, I read a book by Michael Gerber called “E-myth Revisited,” and gosh, the answer to my question was presented to me!
Essentially Gerber’s message is, “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job.”
While I was attending the ACCTI conference in Montreal, I noticed that a lot of company owners were being paged back to the office in the middle of an engaging conversation. It seemed like many of our businesses, (including my own) were still, to various degrees, dependant on our own style, personality, and talent. Of course when we are not around, our customers may contemplate going somewhere else. So what is wrong with this picture; or is there anything wrong with it?
The key to this situation, is that when your business depends on you, your customers are counting on YOUR ability to fulfill their needs; not your BUSINESS’ ability. So of course, when you are absent, there is nobody left to take care of them as well as you could, and that is why they go somewhere else. What we need, is a SYSTEM dependant company, not a PEOPLE dependant company, according to Michael Gerber.
Many of North America’s leading businesses show us how they can meet their customers’ needs regardless of who is on duty. Have you ever visited a Home Depot during a busy spring season? Does it matter if the founder of Home Depot is not there to serve you? Home Depot has developed a system that works smoothly, so that as a customer you receive consistently good service, regardless of who is working. This system doesn’t rely on highly skilled extraordinary people that are in short supply in the market place. Instead, it leverages productivity and good work out of ordinary folks that are in ample supply. It is also what Michael Gerber calls “the turn-key revolution.” You must build a system that works; which is your business. Then you need to give the key to your people, enabling them to use the system, and to improve it based upon their own experiences and allow them to give you feedback.
“The sign of a mature company is about building a business that works not because of you but without you.” says Michael Gerber.
It is only after you have built your business (a.k.a. a system that works), that you are freed from the business. A question that we should often ask ourselves then, is -how can I give my customer the results that he wants SYSTEMATICALLY rather than PERSONALLY? Mind you, I am not saying that people are unimportant. But, with people and no process, it is like having a driver without a vehicle. If you want to go somewhere, you need both; proving once and for all, that you CAN be the driver behind your own life, but that you simply need a vehicle (a unique process tailored to your business) in place in order to make your dream work for you.
Hopefully you found this article insightful, interesting, and helpful. I look forward to receiving any feedback regarding your own experiences.