19/10/2011

By Gerard Burke, Founder and MD, Your Business Your Future

Those of you with a long musical memory might remember Paper Lace, and their 1974 number 1 hit “Billy, don’t be a hero”. As I described in the previous article, many owner managers find themselves in the position of being the hero in their business – the person everyone wants to talk to, the person who can solve all the problems, the person who makes all the important decisions.

Of course, being a hero is great for the ego. Everybody wants you! And, as Paper Lace so wisely pointed out, there are also downsides.

There are only a certain number of hours that anyone can work in a day and, once you’ve reached that limit, that’s as big as your business can get. You become the main constraint on further growth of your business.

Equally, if your business is completely reliant on you, your time and your energy, and you’re working very long hours, then inevitably, at some point, it’s going to affect your life outside your business and, possibly, your health. I’ve lost count of the number of owner managers I’ve met who’ve split up from spouses and feel like they’ve missed their kids growing up because they were always working.

I’m not suggesting that being the hero is “wrong” or inappropriate. Indeed, for some owner managers, their relationship with their business is as important as their relationship with their spouse or their children. And, of course, we need heroes!

What I am suggesting is that, if you’re currently fulfilling the role of hero in your business, then you ask yourself whether this is the way you want it to be.

So, if you like being the hero, and your happy with the implications that come with the hero role, then that’s fine. On the other hand, if you would like your business to be less reliant on your own time and energy, then you need to change things. And, although it might not always feel this way, it is actually up to you to decide the future you want and within your control to bring it about.

The best way to do that is to spend some time clarifying your own personal goals, personal ambitions and personal drivers – the future you want to create for you. This needs to include questions like: “How much of your own time and energy do you want to be putting in to the business?”, “What role do you want to be doing in future?”. “How much financial, and other types of, reward do you want from the business?”, “How much longer do you want to be doing what you’re doing now?”

Then, the key step: design and build a business which delivers those things to you.

In this way, you’ll remain focused, driven, motivated and passionate – and, because other people will observe this and be attracted to it, the business will thrive.

Conversely, I regularly meet owner managers who’ve, almost accidentally, ended up with a business which is delivering to them a whole set of things that they don’t want.

Typically, it’s too demanding of their own time and energy, and it’s not generating enough profit for them to be able to take the dividends they would like. Over time, this becomes frustrating and, ultimately, the business can feel like a bit of a burden. It’s very difficult for the owner manager to hide these feelings from other people in the business. So, it affects them too and, as a result, the business just drags along. And, they end up in a downward spiral of frustration. If that’s you, then Paper Lace’s words are highly appropriate – “Billy, don’t be a hero, don’t be a fool with your life”.


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