How to Stay Focused on the Big Picture as an Entrepreneur

When you’re first starting out as an entrepreneur, you’re likely going to be wearing many different hats. You may go from managing finances one minute, to designing a logo the next, to leading new business development – sometimes all at once. And while you’re in the process of building your business, this often makes sense.

But there are limits to what one person can do and there will come a time when you need to take the leadership reins. As the founder of your business, you’re the most passionate believer in what you do and set the vision for the company. Here are some tips to help you get out of the weeds and start working on your business, so you can stay focused on the big picture.

1. Get over yourself.

If you want to take a more strategic approach to developing your company, accept that you’ll likely need to move out of your comfort zone. You’ll need to learn new things, which might include brushing up on your leadership skills or training for a higher-level of financial literacy. Getting past your ego also means accepting that you’re not always right and that your employees will not be clones of you (if they were, they would be your competitors).

2. Make time in your schedule, every week, to think.

Most of the time small business owners are running so fast, they don’t take time to think. But you can’t gain objectivity in the middle of the scrum. To keep your head up, schedule “thinking time” in your calendar and find a place to brainstorm where you won’t be interrupted. Think about: what’s working and what’s not, as well as changes in your industry and what they mean to your business. Ask your colleagues for input, trends and perspectives and record all your ideas and observations. If you have a knotty issue that needs unravelling, schedule time to think about it and how to problem-solve it.

3. Manage your time and attention.

We are living in a time of distraction with social media, email, Slack, and phones – just to name a few – all vying for our attention. It’s very easy to find yourself taking just a couple of minutes to look at something on Instagram and go down a rabbit hole, which can also create stress. Lately, you may be dealing with new stressors while working from home and managing increased pressure on work-life balance. 

Too often, we get dragged into other people’s stressors, or waste time on unimportant, but irritating loose ends. There are a variety of ways to ensure your attention is focused where it should be. Consider using the Eisenhower Matrix, which helps you prioritize tasks by urgency and importance. Or consider this approach to “designing time”.

4. Ask yourself one pivotal question.

Barry Keller, entrepreneur and best-selling author of The One Thing famously asked: “What is the ONE Thing I can do in my business that, once accomplished, would make everything else easier or unnecessary?” Consider this question and focus your energy on making it a reality. It may take some time and deliberate thought (see above) to drill through the layers and arrive at the one fundamental reality that has the greatest impact on your business. Once you identify it, the knowledge can transform your business.

5. Work to your strengths, hire to your weaknesses. 

Take a good, honest look at yourself and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Understand this — when you do things you hate or are not good at, it takes much more energy, creates much more stress, and leads to many more mistakes. Focus on what you’re good at and hire exceptional people to complement your skill set.

Depending on how quickly your business is growing, you might choose to use a recruiter (industry-specific with strong references) or develop and refine your own hiring process (if you are hiring frequently). Add some technology to help in your application screening and management process. Once candidates are identified, use structured interviews that include critical incident and behavioural questions. Add skills tests, homework, and (if appropriate) psychometric and other assessment tools (MBTI, PLUM, EQ, IDISC, etc.) to your process. The most important thing to remember: whatever it takes, you need to get good at hiring the right people, so you can comfortably stop doing everything yourself.

6. Be a jet, not a helicopter. Set the course and delegate. 

You’ve probably heard the term “helicopter parent.” Many entrepreneurs think of their company as their “baby.” This can lead to the business equivalent of over-parenting, i.e., micro-managing. But, you can’t develop exceptional employees if you breathe down their necks, re-do their work and prevent them from going out on the occasional limb. More importantly, if you hire great people and then hover over their every move, they will leave, and you’ll be back to wearing all the hats again. Motivate them by being a more effective leader.

7. Get what’s in your head out where employees can find it. 

Document how and what you do successfully in your business. If you identify regular activities that are not up to par, examine the way things are done now and figure out how to make them better (include employees in the conversation – they often have a better handle on front-line business activities than you do!). Make sure to document the improved approach. One step at a time, create processes and systems for all regular business activities. Reinforce and communicate about processes until they become second nature to everyone. Encourage feedback aimed at improving the way things are done and foster the habit of continuous improvement.

8. Identify tasks and routines that can be effectively outsourced and partner to meet those needs. 

Often the biggest mental overhead for start-ups and SMEs is managing an increasing number of people. Outsourcing is one option for taking operational tasks off your plate without the complications of additional staff. Effective outsourced solutions exist for most common business operations. These can include everything from bookkeeping to Human Resources.

9. Examine and test your assumptions. 

Is there anything you are doing in your business that could be eliminated without any negative repercussions? Are any of your processes based on faulty assumptions, outdated habits or personal preference (i.e. ego) and not on their value to the company or its customers? When in doubt, validate by asking for feedback or by making a change and observing results.

10. Put a value on your time.

Think about how much your work contributes to the company and arrive at an hourly figure that represents what you’re worth to the company. When you find yourself doing work with a value considerably lower than this figure, delegate. Spend your high-value time on high-value activities. 

11. Keep learning.

Everything is changing so quickly and there is so much to learn and know. Use travel time (and other times when your hands or body are busy, but your brain is not) to read or listen to audio books, watch TED Talks, and listen to podcasts that will help you grow as an entrepreneur and leader. Want to know more? Check out these reads: Why Good Leaders never Stop Learning and Why Great Leaders Need to be Lifelong Learners.

To learn more about Innovation Guelph and how their programs and services can help you and your business click here:

By Innovation Guelph

September 03, 2021