Outside the Lines: The First Step to Becoming a Great Leader
This year we are launching our fifth company—a network security software endeavor that will empower homeowners and small businesses, and could potentially provide solutions for the automotive industry’s cybersecurity woes. The new venture adds to our two service shops, a luxury rental car company and a gourmet candy company. I also get to co-pastor our church in Colorado and raise two beautiful daughters, who are 2 years and 8 months old, respectively.
Sounds like a lot doesn’t it?
It wasn’t that long ago, just a hair over 10 years ago in fact, that I was a solo entrepreneur wearing all of the hats; the top and bottom man on the proverbial totem pole. I was spread thin, stressed out and worried sick, wondering when the day would come when I could draw my first paycheck or, Heaven forbid, take a day off.
Perhaps you can relate. But about two years after I started the first shop, I was given a pearl of wisdom that would change the trajectory of my business career. That pearl was to learn to train and delegate so that I could start focusing on how to grow. It paved the way for future success and it came, almost divinely, when everything was about to fall apart. Before long we added a second technician, hired a service advisor, and I began studying marketing methods to increase car count.
We became profitable, and making payroll was no longer my beast of burden. It’s not that we didn’t have problems like everyone else, but those “first-world problems” were bite-sized and palatable compared to trying to figure out how to put food on the table.
As helpful as this advice was to work on my businesses and not in it, the greatest piece of business advice I ever received came from my wife. She is an amazingly direct and non-dramatic woman who has spent the past decade of her life catering to surgery patients as a registered nurse at a prominent Denver hospital. So, what on God’s green earth does she know about business? Little to nothing really, and technically the advice she gave me in 2015 wasn’t really business advice at all. Here’s what she told me: “You can do whatever you want between 6:15am and 6:15pm Monday through Friday, but the evenings and weekends are for family.”
Just like any normal, excessively driven type-A personality, I was defensive and felt mildly insulted. I couldn’t believe she had the audacity to tell me how to manage my schedule. I was the head of household and the primary breadwinner, so based on the views of our highly capitalistic society, wasn’t I entitled to follow my big, hairy, audacious goals and do something bigger than life? Wasn’t I supposed to do anything and everything in my power to create the next Berkshire Hathaway?
Well, zeal without wisdom can be deadly to your health and your most meaningful relationships, and thankfully I didn’t have to learn the hard way. After a couple weeks of deep contemplation, I realized my wife’s insightful words were spot-on. They forced me to devise a litmus test for those things vying to occupy time in my schedule and I began to realize how much “fluff” there was in my day.
I define fluff as anything you could remove from your schedule without negatively affecting the things that matter most to you. It doesn’t mean you should eliminate a lunch appointment with a high school friend or a free seminar through your local Chamber or BBB, or a little quiet time first thing in the morning. But it might mean that in order to reach goals and maintain a healthy work-life harmony, you may have to cut down on your golf time or say no to that vendor that has been beating down your door, or, perhaps, you may have to decline an offer to serve on another nonprofit board (key word there is another; I highly recommend everyone serve on a board or mentor in your community). You see, citing a quote from speaker and author Louie Giglio, “Whenever you say yes to anything, there is less of you for something else.” Saying this another way, make sure your yes is worth the less.
It is truly amazing what a person can achieve when they use their gifts and talents effectively and efficiently. Not everyone is called to run two or five or 50 companies, but I believe all business owners are called to maximize their potential and operate the business (or businesses) they have at the highest possible level. When you schedule your values and prioritize what matters most to you, you’ll start to unlock the power possessed by the greatest non-renewable resource we have—our time. And excellent time management may be the next silver bullet that takes you and your company to the next level.