As Entrepreneurs, we all wear multiple hats. On any given day, we can be the sales department, HR department and accounting department. Plus, if you own a coworking facility you can be the janitorial department and facilities department.
A challenge many of us face is we often find ourselves bouncing between many roles and
fighting fires that pop up. This causes us to be reactive rather than proactive, which makes us ineffective.
What is the solution?
If you have ever been at a fire scene you will notice that there are Fire Crews and a Fire Chief. The Chief does not fight the fire, he(she) directs the scene and maintains a big picture view of what is occurring. While the Chief needs to know everyone else’s job, lives are at stake if he does not step back and manage the fire scene.
Why am I talking about Firefighting? This is a metaphor for our daily lives as Entrepreneurs. If we apply some of the techniques used by fire departments to our business, we will likely be much more effective and less stressed.
The Chief Doesn’t Fight the Fire
The first thing to remember is the Chief drives an SUV. That SUV has no hoses, crew or other firefighting gear. There might be a medical kit or a fire extinguisher, but those are for emergencies only. What can we learn from this? Fire Departments know that the Chief’s job is not to fight fires, but is on the scene to manage and direct the crews.
To become Chief, he (she) has likely done all the jobs in a fire department and is a highly skilled technician. The Chief cannot act as a firefighter, engineer, paramedic, and public affairs person. Therefore, they have fire crews.
I know what you are thinking. “This sounds great, but I am a small business owner and I can’t afford to hire a fire crew”. You can’t afford not to hire staff. One of the wonderful things about the 21st Century is the “fractional” ownership of employees.
For example, when I first founded my Wealth Management practice I needed to take a 2000+ person contact list that was on three different PDF documents, enter them into a spreadsheet and upload it into my marketing system. Could I have done this myself? Yes. Instead, I released some control and went to www.Upwork.com and hired my first Virtual Assistant who lives in the Philippines. I hired Maan on a Friday and sent her my three lists. By Saturday morning, I woke up to an email letting me know that she had completed the task and found the completed spreadsheet with absolutely no errors (I checked…control junkie!). Plus, she found 200 repeat names that she eliminated. All of this was completed in under 5 hours, Upwork records their time, and I paid a total of $37. I was hooked.
I also employ a bookkeeper (that I drive crazy…sorry Bob), social media marketer and cleaning crew. I have all my marketing materials developed by two developers I have worked with on Fiverr (www.fiverr.com) who reside in Estonia, and another designer in Serbia that I also found on Fiverr that develops all my Video intros for our Youtube show. All of these people work only when I need them. Some are local that I see regularly and some are overseas. Most of what I have had developed on Fiverr is for under $50 and is usually done within 48 hours.
Am I perfect? My mother would disagree, but of course not. My natural cheapness has caused me not to hire a web designer, which is more hassle and time that it should be. For the first 6 months of my new financial practice, I didn’t even have a website. I just recently set up a website through www.Weebly.com, which is adequate but not optimized. This will be a person that I will add to my team in the next 3-6 months.
You can’t do everything. Release some of your responsibilities to highly qualified specialists and focus on what drives the most value for your business. If this is sales and marketing, stop screwing around trying to make your website (which no one knows or cares about) perfect. Make some calls, go to networking events, and reach out to some of your key referral partners to schedule a lunch to catch up.
Fire Crews Never Rush In
We have all experienced situations where a fire erupts in our business. As entrepreneurs, we want to rush in and fix the problem immediately ourselves. Instead of doing this, we need to approach this the same way as a Fire Chief and his crew would.
Fire crews have very clear cut responsibilities and train constantly to keep their skills at the highest level possible. A fire crew also has leaders internally, Captains and Lieutenants, who can break down leadership responsibilities at a scene.
When a fire crew arrives on the scene, the leaders quickly assess the situation, deploy the appropriate personnel, and oversee the situation. Once the Fire Chief (or Battalion Chief) arrive on the scene they will take over responsibility, while the Captains and Lieutenants take responsibility for their crew.
How can this be applied to your own business? For example, Brian Fisher and I have a huge fear of our internet going down at T-Werx. In the coworking world, one of the most important things we must offer better than anyone else is reliable internet. Two weeks after we had opened, our internet went down at a critical point in the day on a Wednesday afternoon when our space was full. As soon as this happened Brian and I jumped into action.
Now those of you that REALLY know me, know that I am a bit of a control junkie and I can be a bit overbearing in a situation like this. The fortunate thing is that Brian and I had discussed this so often that we had formulated a plan and drilled it prior to even opening our Coworking Space. We have very clear cut responsibilities at T-Werx. Brian is responsible for the facility and construction. While I focus on marketing, client relations and finance.
When the outage happened, Brian was immediately on the phone with our Internet provider and IT company. He managed the problem, while I stepped back and communicated with the members. I could have gotten in the middle of this and tried to control things, however I did as we planned and stayed out of Brian’s way. In the end, our quick organized response, communication and having the right vendors in place only had use down for about 45 minutes.
After this event happened, we did realize that since we are such a small team, we needed to cross train on our duties in case someone is out of the office when events like this happen. We are in the process of writing and training on procedures like this in case a fire springs up again.
Don’t Put out Fire with Gasoline
Possibly the single most important thing that we as Entrepreneurs and leaders of our organizations need to be able to do is to remain calm when fires pop up in our business. Once again, I am not perfect (sorry mom) and can get very direct and grouchy when things get stressful. Fortunately, I am aware of this and the people I work with have my permission to call me out on this without retribution.
As leaders we have to inspire our teams by letting them know that we trust and respect them to take the lead when a fire springs up. Before you do this, you have to have clear cut job responsibilities. Take some time with your teams (even if they are virtual) and define their job responsibilities as well as your own. A great way to do this exercise is to have both you and your team write their job descriptions (this includes yours).
What you will find from this exercise is where the disconnects are that are going to show up during emergencies.
Once you have clear descriptions of your jobs it is time to drill your team on what possible fires could spring up and how to handle them. This will allow your team to be more effective in critical situations. Another reason for clear job descriptions is avoid hard feelings from members of the team that see themselves as bearing more of the work.
We small businesses are the backbone of our economy. To be as effective as possible our, we must learn to direct the “Fire Scene” rather than fight the fire ourselves. By changing our mindset, we set up our business for growth which provides us with more financial success and time for more freedom over time. I have made a conscious choice in my businesses to be the Fire Chief instead of the Firefighter. I hope that you can take at least one thing from this article and apply it to your business today.
Jeff Kikel is the CEO and Co-Founder of T-Werx Coworking (www.T-Werx.com) in Cedar Park, TX. Jeff is a serial entrepreneur, published author, and public speaker. He is the President of CPTX Wealth Strategies and owns two other businesses with his wife, Crystal. He lives in Cedar Park Texas with his wife Crystal and their two cats, Salem and Sabrina.
You can contact Jeff at: Jeff@T-Werx.com