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How To Disconnect From Business—To Better Your Business

How To Disconnect From Business—To Better Your Business

You own a business. Yes, you’re the keystone of operations. Yes, it’s critical to the success of your business that you take due responsibility. But if big bank CEOs can still go on vacation and switch their phones to “off,” why can’t you? Sure, they have enormous teams to take care of everything while they’re gone, however there’s a simpler reason why they’re able to disconnect: they have the processes in place to keep the engine running without them.

Let’s say you’re still many, many written processes away from feeling that kind of independence. That can be remedied (especially with the new online, self-paced course I’m offering that dives into all-things-process). And…the idea of disconnecting is something crucial you need to understand here and now.

Stop trying to maximize every second of the day with productive to-dos, savagely crossing tasks off your list. If you don’t prioritize downtime to disconnect, you’ll be sitting on the edge of overwhelm and burnout. I am speaking from experience here.

There are at least a few hours every day that must be “sacred,” those hours where no one should bother you and where you have NO obligation to view an email or take a phone call. And I’ll go further—it’s essential to your health and to the growth of your business that you make it your highest priority to find even longer windows to disconnect.

Let Me Tell You Where I’m Coming From…

I’ll be frank; this has been on my mind a lot lately thanks to a recent trip I took. It’s not that long ago that I came back from one and a half weeks overseas. I had a lot of things on my mind while I traveled—places to see, agendas to keep—and above all else, I had one primary focus: to be present.

I had this idea that “being present” would leave me open to whatever experiences happened upon my path. And in order to be more present, I had to disconnect.

It started on a bus where I simply disconnected from the WiFi. As I traveled between cities, I looked out the window or talked to the other travelers instead. I took time and (equally important) made a deliberate effort to immerse myself in the people, culture, history and stories that were quickly building what became a life-changing experience.

By giving myself space, disconnecting from the notifications and the rest, I found perspective.

Please answer honestly—when did you last break away? Do you actively cultivate a space for yourself?

No?

Here’s how.

Step 1: Accept Your “Productive Downfall”

productivity downfall am i too productiveI’m included in this and so feel empowered to say it: business owners face many challenges, and one that continually rises to the top of the list is the need to always be productive. It can feel at times like business success rests squarely on your shoulders, and so there’s always more you could do—projects to finish, deals to close and services to launch out of the park.

Even downtime is filled with “to-dos.” Everything from doing the laundry to cleaning the house or taking care of the errands you haven’t had time to do. It’s a compulsion for most of us. We get that same rush after our “free time” that we do in the office, thinking with satisfaction of the list of things we just accomplished.

What you have to remember is that any amount of time devoted to relaxation—real relaxation, not running errands—is a profitable investment. It will make you a better businessperson and it will render you more equipped to do your job. Giving yourself room to introspect will directly impact your business in the most positive ways. Down time opens up space for creativity and to see things in a different way.

If you really want to be “at your best” for your business to grow, a healthy frame of mind is where that starts. Your best ideas come when you’re relaxed and recharged, not stressed. And what do businesses thrive on today, if not great ideas?

It’s critical that you accept the idea of disconnecting, relaxing, living in the moment…and that you build this time in without ever thinking twice about it. Whatever you want to call it, however you want to see it, you need to appreciate its value. Not coming naturally to you? Keep reading about the importance of time off to learn more.

Step 2: Draw A Line In The Sand

If you’re serious about disconnecting, you need to commit to it just like you do everything else on your agenda. And then, you need to draw a line in the sand to start classifying activities that promote relaxation and living in the moment versus those that don’t.

I’ll be the first to add something to column “B” for you—it does not count to be “in the moment” or disconnected from the noise of work and life if you’re on your phone, not even blowing time on social media. That’s why I shut the WiFi off on the bus that day. Our brains need a break from constant engagement, and the risk of notifications coming in and taking you a step away from dedicated time for introspection will be counterproductive to everything you’re trying to gain by it.

What You Need To Know About Your Phone

Even better than disconnecting from WiFi is shutting your phone or tablet off altogether. The buzzing or dinging, those endless vies for your attention, will steer you away from personal growth. Apple proudly announced in 2013 that more than 7.4 trillion push notifications had been sent through its servers. They haven’t spoken to that number since, but how much do you want to bet that number has doubled? Tripled?

By turning your phone off altogether, you’ll quickly discover that you don’t miss the stream of push notifications filling your lock screen. You’ll no longer allow just any app to interrupt your time for reflection.

Apple wants you to look at your iPhone, Gmail wants you to open your inbox, Facebook wants you to open Messenger and dozens of other apps and advertisers are competing every second for your attention. This will not change without your intervention, so make the call now to turn your notifications, WiFi or phone off. Leave it behind.

Step 3: Use Reflection Time

Know how to reflectWhat do you do with this down time? The short answer is: nothing productive. What I mean by that is to strike the idea of “maximizing” your time with things that “have to get done.” You can use your reflection time to walk somewhere, go to lunch, read a book or talk to your neighbor. The point is that it should leave you open to the moment and all the experiences, ideas and feelings that come organically with it.

Not sure which activities or experiences fall on the right side of that line in the sand? Look at this article by American Express to see which of these ideas resonate with you. Personally, I connect with quiet and creativity by getting out into nature, by doing yoga and by cooking.

It’s amazing what’s possible when you step out of the daily grind. Heck, it’s amazing what’s possible when you simply look up from your phone.

Block off time to disconnect starting today. Then increase that time little by little. And then, plan bigger windows of time (like a vacation) to support your “in the moment” experiences. What you find might surprise you in the best way.

Think slowing down is a luxury you don’t have? Think again.

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” – Oprah Winfrey

Three Business “Do Or Dies”

Three Business “Do Or Dies”

The barrier to entry to start a business in this country is extremely low. Have an idea? Think you can do something better or different than others who are doing it? Than start a business! File some simple documents online, and you’re official.

But that doesn’t mean that you can run a successful business.

When it comes to running a business, there are three core functions that you absolutely must have. These apply across every business model and industry without exception. These are mission-critical, and without all three, failure is inevitable.

I talk about these functions seriously because they are that essential. You can develop these functions internally or you can outsource them, but you must have them covered one way or another.

So, without further ado, these three necessary skills for anyone running a business are:

  1. Generate and convert leads.
  2. Read and interpret financials.
  3. Create and put processes in place.

These are each make-or-break, and it’s not just your business that’s at stake—it’s your life. Keep reading and I’ll show you not only why, but also how, to effectively master all three.

1: Generate And Convert Leads

Your business will fail if you don’t have leads coming in. Right? At least, that’s what all the digital marketing companies are telling you. And it’s the truth, but not the whole truth.

Lead lists and how important it is to convertYou do have to be growing your lead list, that’s for sure. I’ll take it a step further, though, and say that your conversion rate on those leads is even more important. If you need nine new clients a month and are only generating a dozen leads, but converting nine of them, you’re right on track.

Your conversion rate will depend on a multitude of factors, and business-to-business those factors will vary a lot. Identifying the right KPIs will help give you direction on where your numbers should be.

Maybe you’ve already identified those KPIs. Maybe you already know where your numbers are, and you’re painfully aware that you desperately need more leads—and a much higher conversion rate. To get to the heart of this, I’ve outlined the steps to get going in the right direction. This is something you have to work on immediately, because without generating and converting the right number of leads, it’s just a matter of time until your business is toast.

Step 1 – Identify Where Your Ideal Clients “Live”

You’ve probably heard and read about this many, many times. Your ideal client, or avatar, is the profile of the client you best serve.

As much as you might know about your avatar (their gender and age, where they are located geographically, what they do for work), do you know where they hang out? Do you know what percent of that audience uses one social network versus another? Can you name a book that multiple people in your audience have read? Do you know what their favorite websites are? What magazines they read? Where they go for fun? What they really care about deep down?

You can get these answers through interviews of your ideal client. This will help you know where to go and what to talk about to attract and convert more leads.

Step 2 – Make A Valuable Offer

We’ve gone over how you’ll have a much easier time reaching your ideal client when you know where they “live.” You’ll also have a better understanding about what makes them happy, sad, scared, relieved—and make an offer to them that’s valuable and alleviates their concerns, helps them realize their dreams, etc. In essence, that takes care of what they care about. Anything that can bring real value to your avatar (while speaking to the “need” and emotional backdrop you know is there) will help position your offer as the solution.

Step 3 – Follow Up

Let’s say you’ve done all the work up to here. To tap the well and convert even more leads, you need a system in place to easily (and, ideally, automatically) follow-up.

Sometimes called “touch programs,” “top-of-mind awareness” and “drip campaigns,” this refers to the marketing and messaging you push out to warm leads who already contacted you but didn’t bite. This is the segment of your target audience that knows who you are and knows you provide a solution they need. Generally, two thirds of this segment learned about you before they were ready to buy, and following up is your ticket to staying in the picture until they are ready to make their decision. Without following up, it’s dangerously unlikely that decision will be made in your favor.

Building a system for following up also generates content that’s often sharable and repeatable, and helps bring new leads in—and thus the cycle continues.

Take these steps seriously, and remember that even a mammoth lead list won’t do anything unless you both generate and convert leads consistently.

2: Read And Interpret Financials

Your financial statements are commonly referred to as “the scorecards for business performance.” I love talking about the KPI scorecards I help Kleriti clients build, and financials are always a big part of those. This acumen is so essential to your business that, if you aren’t on solid footing in reading and interpreting financials, you truly need to solve that now.

Financials and how to read financial reports

The Balance Sheet

The balance sheet gives you a “snapshot in time” of:

  • Assets
  • Liabilities
  • Shareholder equity
  • Net worth

This sheet is the quick overview of the health of your business. It’s also used to calculate things like your business’s capital structure and rate of return.

The Income Statement

The income statement, also called the profit and loss statement (or P&L), reports the money in, out and owed over a specific time period (rather than the balance sheet, which is a snapshot at a specific point in time). The focus of the income statement includes the net balances of money in and out.

Cash Flow Statement

We all know what cash flow is, and the cash flow statement is an equally essential concept to understand. This reports the operating cash flow as well as the financing cash flow, and—if you have investors—also includes the investing cash flow. Knowing what cash you have on hand, where it’s coming from and at what cost, is essential for assessing any business’s liquidity.

After you know what these financial statements are (and how to read them), knowing how to use that information is the next crucial hurdle. The good news is that this essential, do-or-die task is one of the most practical to outsource. Or, who knows, maybe it’s time to upgrade to a CFO?

3: Create And Put Processes In Place

Processes know how to put process in placeYou know how your business works. In fact, you know it better than anyone. That knowledge transfer is fundamental when you bring more people onto your team—and having documented processes in place is how you transfer your knowledge (and your expectations) successfully.

Processes act to streamline and communicate recurring tasks, as well as to support improving them. So, how do you know what needs to be turned into a process? And how do you craft that process, document it and teach it to others? My new self-paced, online course DuplicateU teaches you how to do just that. And in the meantime, here are some basics to get started.

Step 1 – Determine Recurring Activities

Every business is comprised of predictable, recurring business activities. Since time is money, engaging in recurring tasks depletes your bottom line. The more you can automate, the more time and space you can free up to attend to more creative endeavors.

Step 2 – Document Everything

I can’t tell you how many owners say to me, “Don’t worry. It’s all right here,” as they point to their head. To which I respond, “That is precisely the problem!”

You see, our brains are not meant to keep track of mundane information. They’re meant for higher level functioning and problem solving. Yet, when we fill them with all these details, there’s no room for anything else. Do you ever feel like your brain is sometimes foggy? Or like it’s really hard to concentrate on one thing? This is why! Not to mention that brains are fallible.

Operating this way is not just risky…it’s reckless. Put everything on paper. This makes it shareable and teachable with others in an efficient, effective way. And it frees up your brain for more fun stuff!

Step 3 – Design Tools for Support

Every process has a set of elements (like templates, scripts and checklists) that support it. These are necessary to execute the process seamlessly and consistently every time. And these all need to be on paper so that anyone can follow/use them. The right tools allow you to automate the process, making each repeatable task easier to execute consistently every time.

Mission-Critical Means Immediate Action Needed

This article was a to-the-point description of the three do-or-die functions for business owners. As you can imagine, each of these is so important that I could devote not just a whole blog, but an entire course to it—like I did with DuplicateU, the course I designed to empower business owners to put the processes in place they need so their businesses can run without them.

There’s a lot of information out there on each of these concepts, and even some excellent tools to help you. For example, read what Lucid Chart has to say about process documentation, and you’ll see how their “idea board” SaaS is especially well-designed to help.

Whatever you do, don’t look at the end of this article as the end of the lesson. These three business tasks are non-discretionary for your business and for your own well-being. You need to generate and convert leads, you need to know how to read and take action on your financials and you need to have defined, documented processes in place—or your business will fail. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Start today, and check out DuplicateU. You’ll be happy you did.

How To Create And Use KPIs For Real Results

How To Create And Use KPIs For Real Results

Analytics today. How much data do we have available just a click away? It’s unreal.

Most of the data we can access today about our business, our clients and the market in general is downright fascinating. But the excitement of all that information quickly deflates when you find yourself neck-deep in data without any idea how to use it.

Not all data is created equal. You can end up with a ton of information that doesn’t inform you on your daily business functions and which quite frankly isn’t that useful.

Gain relevant and actionable insights by developing and using the right KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Easier said than done, right? It’s true that this will require some development. Well-crafted KPIs are worth it, though, when you see them clearly outline your business’s road map to success.

First, I’d like to back up to one essential KPI “pre-step.” The following section is a must read before starting strategic KPI work, because ultimately your KPIs will be based off of this basic ingredient.

 

Start With The Right Goals

the best kpis start with the right goalsYour KPIs, in essence, are the metrics to check your progress against your goals. So setting the right goals for your business is essential to later craft the KPIs that measure their status.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you just rebuilt your website. It seems obvious that increased traffic would be a goal, right? That means increased visibility, maybe even improved SEO or a better user experience bringing more people to each page. But is website traffic necessarily the right goal to know if your website is performing well?

Websites aren’t (or shouldn’t be) built solely to “get more traffic.” If the business’s goal is to get more business, then a more appropriate goal for the website would be to get more online conversions. Higher website traffic comes with more conversions sometimes (for sheer volume), but definitely not always. By looking at conversions instead, you’re encompassing all the other factors that ultimately lead you to your goal.

Specific website conversion goals might include when users:

  • Register for an event
  • Submit a question
  • Make a payment
  • Fill in a form or opt in to something

Did you catch it? These goals all have a direct and measurable effect on our number-one business goal: growth. And by making it measurable, you naturally identify the KPIs that are worth watching to get where you want to go.

For some businesses, KPIs around things like employee performance feel harder to quantify—at first. Let’s work with another example. Is it the number of calls your front-desk employees are making that you want to monitor and improve? Or the number of appointments set with potential clients? By identifying the right goal, your KPIs will be easier to pick out.

How about business strategy KPIs? Client retention KPIs? See more examples and tips on choosing your KPIs in this well-done Hubspot article. Right here and now, I’ve got some more ground to cover to make your KPIs usable and effective.

 

Lagging Vs. Leading Indicators

It’s important for me to take a moment and talk about lagging vs. leading indicators. This is one important and fundamental way that performance management is broken down in business, and it’s also something I talk about with Kleriti clients and in my new self-guided online course, DuplicateU.

  • Lagging indicators are usually “output” oriented, meaning they measure something you’re looking at in hindsight. Think about financial performance, profit and cost metrics. These indicators are very easy to measure, while being more challenging to influence.
  • Leading indicators are the “input” factors in your business’s performance, meaning they measure something that’s in your control now. Leading indicators are measurable in the context of today or the immediate future, making them harder to measure but easier to control.

Want another example? Imagine a business that has some form of tech user support, like a SaaS start-up. They might have internal policies stating how to resolve client issues. Let’s say they even sold their clients on a commitment that they resolve all help-desk issues within 48 hours.

The output or “lagging indicator” is easy to measure—how many tickets are closed within a 48-hour window?

And how do you influence that lagging indicator? If tickets aren’t getting closed out, what KPIs are in your control? Maybe you see that incidents not touched within two hours are those that don’t get closed within 48. Your “leading indicator” could be the percent of incidents not worked at least once in a two-hour window.

what are lagging versus leading indicators in business kpis

For more examples, you can check out this accounting-specific article on leading and lagging KPIs.

 

Crafting Your KPIs In A Usable Way

So you have your goals and you have your KPIs. You even know how lagging and leading indicators work.

How do you ensure your KPIs are not only insightful, but also actionable?

An actionable KPI is an effective KPI, because the whole point of these metrics is to make smarter business decisions.

To spur action, your KPIs are effective and useful once you set targets for them. And describing the desired performance of these metrics is how your data will be interpreted later. This step defines good performance and bad performance along with thresholds for upper and lower limits.

And here we are at another “how:” how do you measure against those targets?

 

Establishing KPI Scorecards

how to establish kpi scorecards to track kpiOnce you have all these numbers clearly defined, the final steps are to set them up in a highly usable scorecard and establish a cadence for scorecard review.

The scorecard should include:

  • The KPI
  • The target
  • Who in the organization (team or individual) is responsible for driving it
  • How the metric is collected/measured (to ensure consistency)

Then establish a process where the scorecard is reviewed regularly (I recommend weekly) with a red light/green light report out so that corrective action can be taken as soon as possible to get metrics that have gone off track back on track.

For example, I work with the leadership teams of Kleriti clients to elect a set of 6-12 numbers that on their own give an absolute pulse on the business. These KPIs are formalized into a scorecard, data is collected and reviewed weekly by the leadership team and red light items are discussed with specific action items assigned to individuals to get them back in the green.

 

Ensure KPIs Are Understood And Used Across Your Organization

It’s essential that everyone on your team be aware of what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re measuring progress. KPIs form part of your business strategy decision-making across the board, and everyone should be clear on how their contributions affect major KPIs.

Communicating KPIs keeps your team on their toes and it also provides an opportunity to applaud success. People react to numbers, and meeting goals is something that can be shared and promoted company-wide when KPIs are hit out of the park.

Data and metrics are everywhere. For your business, only KPIs that are well designed and actionable will be effective in tracking progress to reaching your goals.

I spend a lot of time with Kleriti clients helping them define goals, identify KPIs and create the scorecards to assign responsibility and streamline the collection of usable data. If you have questions or want to know more about any part of this article, don’t hesitate to send me an email directly.

Find, Train and Retain Rockstar Contractors

Find, Train and Retain Rockstar Contractors

You can’t do it all. And this becomes especially true as your company grows to serve more customers. With growth come more relationships and projects to manage, as well as more expansive and complex administrative functions. You need help to build a sustainable business, and we live in a time when there are more options for help available than ever before.

With benefits to your business like less paperwork, lower overhead for office space and skipping the benefits package, independent contractors can be a great option for businesses that don’t need full-time, dedicated on-site support for a specific function, project or initiative.

The notion that outsourcing is only done to leverage lower wages overseas has gone by the wayside, and in has stepped the boom of independent professionals who provide services under the contractor model stateside. Forbes estimates that half of the American workforce alone will be freelancing by 2027.

Maybe you already outsource your bookkeeping or your social media. The contractors you use are an essential piece of your operations, allowing you to let go while still building your business. Maybe you haven’t used contractors yet and are considering when is the right time and how to bring them on board successfully.

The vital question is how to find, train and retain the right contractors.

Let’s dive in.

Finding The Right Contractors

The contractor world is growing, and finding the right contractor starts with a few keystrokes. If you’re looking for an independent contractor in your geographical area, it’s quick and easy to start the search on Google. If you’re looking for an independent professional within a wider radius, websites like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com offer thousands of professionals to choose from. There are dedicated websites for freelancers providing specific services, too, like Textbroker.com for copy writing.

I already mentioned some of the benefits to contracting specific tasks out. Another added bonus is that contractors often have deep experience in a specific skill set (say web development or recruiting). Look for the specific experience a contractor brings to the table—the companies he or she has worked with, his or her portfolio of work, etc.

A metaphor might be helpful here. Let’s look at cloud technology. The idea of running programs on shared servers has existed for 50 years, but until recently it required each business to buy all the related equipment to store in-house. You know—the computers that filled rooms, plus multiple servers to boot. Today, cloud services are offered over the web, meaning the servers and other hardware are stored in one place that now serve thousands of businesses at a time. And none of those businesses have to buy the equipment or devote resources to the IT required to run it.

How to hire freelancers to take tasks off your plateHiring contractors to get specific tasks off your plate works the same way. If you find the contractor with the experience and the client book that demonstrates they’ve worked with businesses like yours before, that means less training you have to do and fewer resources you have to devote. We’ll get into proper training below (because there will be some), but working with a professional who’s doing the kind of work you need in bulk points to a more efficient economy for all of us.

If you’ve dabbled around on freelancer sites but aren’t ready to reach out on those platforms yet, you can also look for contractors by:

  1. Getting referrals from other businesses, in and out of your market
  2. Checking out trade or professional associations
  3. Searching Facebook or LinkedIn for groups devoted to the work you need

Expert tip: to find the right contractor, you also have to know what you need in very specific terms. Start the search after you have your scope of work tightly defined.

Training Your Contractors

Because of the expertise independent professionals can bring, training your contractors or freelancers can be easier than training full-time hires in your office. Just be sure to keep in mind that training contractors will be a little different.

For one, you expect contractors to come in with specific knowledge, so your focus in training can ultimately be around the operations the contractor will be a part of and what you expect the contractor to deliver.

Training a contractor should naturally take on a sense of your bigger business culture, too. In fact, independent contractors who come on for single projects frequently end up feeling more invested in the hiring company than the project at hand. Start by communicating your standards to new contractors and encourage them to keep those same standards. By taking training beyond tasks to this bigger cultural training, you’ll be better positioned to see your outsourcing ultimately reduce your operational costs.

On top of explaining your business, your expectations, your needs and goals (and giving your contractors the operational materials they’ll need to learn and perform their jobs), training will also come in the form of your active feedback. Give feedback with specific examples as deliverables start to come in, and the right contractor will be quick to learn.

Top tips to effectively train independent contractors

And do take note that there are some rules around training contractors that any business owner looking to independent professionals should be familiar with. Consulting with your attorney is a good place to start, especially to understand the legalities around a W2 versus a 1099.

Retaining Your Contractors

Retaining your contractors starts with a clear service contract that outlines all the details about the relationship they’ll have with your business. What is the term of the agreement? How can it be terminated? What are the specific services you’re contracting, and for what compensation? How will intellectual property be protected and who owns it? Do you need a non-disclosure?

Expert tip: email me if you have questions about what else should go into a service agreement for a contractor. If you do select someone through a freelancing website, this may remove the need to craft an agreement yourself, as these sites have standard agreements that both parties sign.

When it comes to keeping your contractors happy, good communication is the name of the game. If you do work with contractors over the web, consider videoconferences whenever you can. It’s important to build a strong relationship, and there’s no better way to do that than seeing one another eye-to-eye.

Expert tip: remember that you aren’t allowed to control how an independent contractor does his or her work. You can, however, communicate proactively with your contractors regarding timelines and milestones to gain commitment on when they will have specific projects done. Deadlines must always be a part of your negotiations, and it helps if you make yourself available as quickly as you can to answer follow-up questions when a contractor has them.

Managing your contractors does take some work. It won’t be as easy as shipping a task off at the click of a button. Managing contractors is, however, almost always less time-consuming than managing employees.

Outsourcing can add steam to your organization’s engine with lower operational costs if you find, train and retain the right contractors. Do you already use an independent contractor for your administrative tasks? How about your marketing strategy? If you’d like to contract more tasks out, leave me a comment here or get in touch—I might even have a referral for exactly what you need.

To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

To Automate or Not to Automate? That is the Question!

The idea of automating just about any task is an attractive one. You can save time, sometimes hours a day, for you and multiple members of your team.

But then, in the face of changing a routine, finding an automation tool and setting up a new system, you have to ask: is it worth it?

Knowing whether a task is worth automating first requires taking a look at the total time, energy and trouble going into completing it the way it’s done today. From there, you can explore what tools are available to address concerns.

I’m going to break down these three major factors so you can apply them to whatever tasks you’re thinking about automating. Any one of these alone can make it clear that it’s time to automate a process. If you aren’t compelled by one factor, look at the sum of all three. And if you still aren’t sure, apply the questions I’ve listed at the bottom of this article to fully assess your path forward.

Factor One: Total Time

This factor is easy to assess since is quantifiable. For any task you do on a regular basis, there’s usually an opportunity to automate all or part of it, especially since these tasks are almost always repetitive.

For anyone who owns a business, the more tasks you have that require daily or weekly attention, the harder it is to take that vacation you deserve or step back from the daily grind.

My two cents is that any task you’re doing daily can probably be automated to cut the time it takes in half, or eliminate the need for a daily recurrence all together. I’d say the same for many weekly tasks, too.

Here’s a table you can use when assessing how much time you’re really spending on a regular task. Look at the time you could save after migrating that task to an automated solution. Not every task will have an obvious automation solution, and many will depend on other factors like what software is easily available. At the very least this can start to put daily and weekly tasks into perspective of the total time invested.

Table to see how much time you really spend on a repetitive or regular task

Start by jotting down how much time you spend doing regular and repetitive tasks. Especially those that are stressful when you’re out of the office. Better yet, keep a time log for all of your regular tasks to identify room for automation. You might not even realize how many times you’ve performed a single task until you look back over the course of the month.

Expert tip: This concept is so important that it’s discussed in greater depth in the first module of our new online course, DuplicateU: Lay The Foundation. To get additional guidance on this step and what it can mean to you and your business, learn more about DuplicateU here.

Factor Two: Energy

This is where we get into the more open-ended assessments. The energy you spend doing a regular or repetitive task should be a major consideration when looking at automations—after all, you have a lot of responsibilities requiring energy throughout the day. And energy is a finite resource that must be managed with intentionality. If any recurring task is taking energy away from important business functions like strategy and planning, marketing and sales, or financial oversight, it might be worth looking at another solution.

A task can take little time and still be exhaustive mentally/emotionally. Take financial management tasks, for example. One question I answered recently is whether it’s time to upgrade from a bookkeeper to a CFO. If it’s not time to take that step yet, and you’re trying to do away with a few regular data entry tasks, a simple spreadsheet automation might save you energy spent entering sensitive information and validating data fields.

If you’re not sure how much energy a task really requires, ask yourself how you feel after the task is done. Are you able to jump right into something else, or do you need time to “recover” before tackling the next thing? If your answer is the former, it’s likely that task gives you energy. If your answer is the latter, it’s likely that task depletes your energy, and reducing the amount of mental/emotional energy it takes should be a priority.

Factor Three: Trouble (Frustration)

Frustrating tasks and how business owners can automate themThe frustration factor comes down to a little self-awareness. Do you complete certain tasks grudgingly? Are there recurring responsibilities that you put off and put off and put off until absolutely the last minute? Do you have to push yourself to get them done with several pep talks? If a regular task is causing you grief or if it feels like you’re “going to the trouble” to get it done every time, that’s a big flag to consider properly delegating or looking to an automation.

If you feel resentful toward a task, or even hateful of sitting down to do it, it’s probably time to get that task off your plate.

Expert tip: Remember that toxic tasks can weigh down your employees, too. While delegating can serve as a short-term solution, an automation is often the better way to go for repetitive tasks with a high frustration curve.

A final pointer regarding these three factors:

While any one of these factors can illustrate what tasks can be automated, sometimes it’s the sum of all three that point you in the right direction. Imagine an equation: Total Time plus Energy plus Trouble. Label each factor as “high,” “medium” or “low,” and you will feel that much more empowered to invest a little time upfront to move to an automation that will save you time and boost morale in the end.

Questions to Ask if You’re Still not Sure

Automating tasks sounds great. But doing so often require time you feel you don’t have just to get a new system up and running!

If you’re thinking about a specific task and still aren’t sure, or need a few more reasons to justify the time or budget invested in making the switch, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If you delegated this task instead of automating it, would it be a headache for the person taking it on?
  2. Is the task prone to human error? (Great examples would be bookkeeping and setting appointments.)
  3. Could automating the task improve the quality of work?
  4. Do you know others who have implemented this kind of solution before?

(Expert tip: Making time for a single conversation with a peer or consultant can save you hours of googling, deciphering software features and price-comparing.)

If you answer “yes” to any of the above, that’s a strong indicator that automation could save you time, money and strife.

Looking Toward the Future

Instead of living with frustration or feeling the burnout bubble up, make a move now to automate recurring tasks in a way that is intentional and well planned. These moves will pay off not only in time and energy savings, but also in opening up opportunities to scale your operations. The sooner you have automations in place, the more seamless your ramp to growing your business will be.

Automations often require new software and subscriptions, so weigh these expenses with the benefits these solutions bring and move decisively. If there’s one epiphany that business owners come to time and time again, it’s that we can’t do it all.

Start a time log today to look for tasks begging for automation, or drop a comment here if you already have one on your mind. I’ll reply directly with tips and will be available to point you in the direction of solutions that can help you survive today and scale tomorrow, like the new self-paced online course DuplicateU that will start by working through this exercise. Learn about new automations today to set your business up for a self-sustaining future with lower stress and bigger returns.

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

You Know An Employee Is Ready To Take Responsibilities Off Your Plate When…

As a business owner, one of the most important things you do is delegate. After hiring the right people and setting standards for each role, you’ll be faced with new opportunities on a daily basis to delegate tasks and projects, and help employees move to new heights in performance and skill.

It’s satisfying to see an employee grow. So how do you know when someone is ready to take on more responsibility?

One of the first signs that an employee is fully invested in your company (and ready to take more responsibility) is when his or her vocabulary shifts from “mine” and “yours” to “ours.” It’s not just about the employee’s success, and it’s not just about the success of the company. It’s about “our” success together.

This sounds great, especially with that goal in the back of your mind to get to a place where you can let go of the day-to-day and watch your business run itself. You want your hard work to pay off in a self-sustaining way. The specifics of “when” and “how” come down to human resources and recognizing when an employee’s growing skillset can mean bigger opportunity for your business.

Here, I’m going to break down how to identify when an employee is ready to take on more responsibility and carry your business forward.

When an Employee is Ready and Knows it

An employee who is ready for more responsibility and shows it

There are employees who are hungry for more responsibility and make it known to you and your team.

Naturally, any employee you’re considering handing new responsibilities off to will have excelled in meeting his or her current accountabilities. Take a look at any energetic or ambitious employee against the key performance indicators (KPIs) you have in place to ensure that existing tasks are being completed consistently and correctly.

Then look at the telltale signs below that signal an employee is ready to take on even more:

  • Ingenuity: If an employee actively looks for solutions to problems, this demonstrates a drive to exceed expectations, play to the success of the business and ultimately take on more responsibility.
  • Prioritization: Taking on new tasks requires excellent time management practices. In the face of new responsibilities, an employee has to know how to stay on top of current duties and work new ones in while keeping priorities clearly outlined.
  • Managing deadlines: Hand-in-hand with prioritization is the employee’s ability to watch deadlines and take charge of follow-up. Meeting deadlines, and proactivity communicating when a deadline may not be met, are key practices that become more essential when the employee’s plate is even fuller.

When an Employee is Ready and Doesn’t Know it—Yet

An employee who is ready for more responsibility but doesn't know it yet

Maybe you have an employee who’s showing signs that he or she is ready for more responsibility, but lacks the spark to ask for additional tasks proactively. In this case, get curious and speak with the employee about what’s going on. It’s possible he or she has a concern about biting off more and being successful, or simply isn’t aware that there are additional ways he or she could bring value to the organization.

It’s your job to see the possibilities for this employee’s skillsets and strengths and match them with organizational needs.

These are some of the signs that an employee is ready for more responsibility, whether or not he or she knows it:

  • Excelling in existing responsibilities: This is the basic metric when thinking about handing off more assignments or tasks. If your employee is excelling in tasks on his or her plate now, it may be time to start building that employee up to bigger things.
  • Strong performance reviews: If your recent reviews of the employee outline strong adherence to KPIs, that’s one sign that he or she is ready for more. And if your reviews include any type of self-assessment where the employee has shown confidence in work done, that’s an even bigger push to start giving that employee more to do.
  • Acting as the go-to: If other teammates are reaching out to this employee for help with technical or theoretical questions, and he or she has the answers, this may signal that the employee is ready to take on more.

    Expert tip: If other employees are going to one person with questions, this also signals an opportunity in your training program. Make sure team members are cross-trained and have access to the information they need to do their job well.

Align Appropriate Rewards

When an employee takes on more responsibility, consider what type of recognition is most appropriate. If the employee is up for a promotion or raise, celebrate the hard work that went into it. And if you hadn’t thought about a promotion or a raise yet, ask yourself what that employee would need to demonstrate in order for a promotion or raise to be appropriate, and share the criteria with him or her to build up that employee’s momentum.

That said, a raise isn’t the only way to show an employee your appreciation. You can also recognize your employee (and encourage the same behaviors from the rest of your team) using one of several reward approaches. Handing more responsibility to an ambitious and resourceful employee will be good for you, good for the employee and good for your team if done right.

Once you do identify an employee who is ready for more responsibility, the art of delegating is another practice you’ll want to master. And coupled with the recognition and rewards that will keep employees motivated in their new tasks, you and your team will be on the path to bigger things.

Do you have a specific case to ask about? Or an employee who’s shown some of these signs, but not others? Leave me a comment below with your question, or reach out here.