A top GearLaunch Partner and industry thought leader, Will Schenk spends only 10% of his time on daily operations. We've invited him to share advice on what it takes to run a successful company with little grunt work. You can follow along by watching the full video below or reading the text version.
Before I say anything, let me be clear about what this article IS NOT:
It is NOT
1) a 4 hour work week scheme
2) a plot to EXPLOIT people or cheap labor
3) an easy system that can be implanted in a day
With that out of the way, let us ask ourselves one question: why did we get into online marketing and ecommerce? If you are like most successful ecommerce CEO’s, you did it for the freedom and lifestyle first, the money second, and being your own boss third.
But how many of us really feel free? Like we can unplug the computer for a week and not return to 300 support tickets and a banned Facebook account?
I’ll bet very few. More commonly, I hear CEO’s of ecommerce companies complaining that they are stuck constantly doing regular tasks like looking for new products, checking up on low level employees, making Facebook Ads, scaling big products, adding products to their store, updating existing product listings, combing through comments and the list goes on.
But when I ask these same CEO’s “why aren’t your employees’ doing those tasks?” I always hear the same lines:
1.) "They are, but they just don’t do it as well as I do.”
2) “I used to have a VA but not anymore. I should get a new one.”
3) “You trust your staff to do that?” followed by a shocked and mildly confused look.
Yes, my team does all of the tasks mentioned above and more. Truthfully, with day to day operations, I only do about 10% or less of it myself. I still scale ad budgets of the 2 or 3 biggest products of the week and check the overall company profitability daily. Everything else, with no exaggeration, is done by 3 employees; a manager, a designer, and an assistant.
So does that mean I only work 10 hours a week and spend the rest of it traveling the world? No.
I still work 40 hours on a light week, 50+ on a more standard week. As CEO of my company, I am not just entrusted with my career, but also my team's. That isn’t something I take lightly. So for all of our careers to thrive, my company needs to grow. That is what I do; I focus on growing the company.
CEO’s should be GROWING the company, not running it. Managers run companies, executives grow them. It is that simple.
So, back to you, why are you running your company? Chances are, it is a mix of these reasons:
1) You don’t have a manager
2) You don’t have well defined systems
3) You don’t teach people to think
4) You haven’t turned your employees into fanatics
5) You are scared you’ll lose time
This is where it all comes together. See the above 5 “reasons”, if you reverse engineer them, that is the secret formula to a company that operates without you hovering over it. Let’s talk a little more about what it takes to craft a company that runs without you doing the grunt work.
It all falls on this person. They are your number 2, the “mini me”, the clone. But will they really be your clone, no. Will they make mistakes and choices you wouldn’t, yes. But will they free up 30+ hours a week for you? 100%. A manager is CRUCIAL and necessary for your company to run without you. Keep in mind, I said run itself, not grow itself, that is your job. My manager knows how to do every job in the company, so she knows when my designer or VA are out of alignment. I also take a lot of her input and advice when deciding how to grow the company.
Well defined systems
this is basically WELL DOCUMENTED training. It will be the most labor intensive for you on the front end but will pay off the most on the back end. Your systems should be so well documented that if an employee leaves the company, a new employee can take their place and learn how to do their job in a week or two. Also, this frees you up, because you no longer have train most new employees, your manager will. The only employee you HAVE TO TRAIN, is your manager.
Teaching your staff to think
Most new CEO’s have one secret fear, that their employee will leave the company, take company ideas or practices and start their own company. So, they limit what their employees can do and learn. In reality, they end up with an employee who will only do what is told to them and will never do anything outside of the scope of their job description. This isn’t a great formula for success or automation. I meet with my team via a Skype group call once a week and the entire company takes part in figuring out complex issues, learning new best practices and openly discussing how to grow the bottom line. Every employee is treated like a manager, regardless of their job title. And by doing that, most new “issues” that pop up, are resolved before I ever hear about that. I have very few fires to put out on a week to week basis, so my attention can stay on the topic I need to focus on. My team can think like me because we talk so openly together, about everything.
Employee’s need to be FANATICAL
This doesn’t mean that they will tattoo your logo on their arm, but they should believe in your company. Like, really believe in it. When you ask your employees where they want to be in 5 years, you should pray they answer “with this company, but at a higher role with more responsibility”. If they don’t, you haven’t invested enough in the company culture to excite them about a future with you. It is time to invest in building stronger relationships with your team.
Yes, fine-tuning points 1 through 4 takes time. We are all in a fast paced industry, but that doesn’t change the fact that all business is essentially 2 things: people and practices. Both relationships with your team and fine-tuning your systems take months, if not years to perfect. It is easy to just keep doing things the way you are today, but CEO’s don’t take on the easy jobs do they?
Be a CEO, focus on growing your company and start with getting your team to run it.
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