Five Steps to Making Yourself an Entrepreneur
By teaching employees proper systems and metrics, entrepreneurs can concentrate on the bigger picture and not let the business run them.

Last month I wrote about the power of a recipe. If you want to bake an incredible chocolate cake or apple pie, find and follow a great recipe. Abide closely to the directions; don’t deviate.

Following a tried and true recipe in any endeavor will guarantee your success. In every critical area of your life, you should find a good recipe and follow it, be it for improving your use of time, improving your personal relationships, getting better sales results or improving your business results.

A recipe or system eliminates chaos. It assures the right things get done right the first time. Put simply, recipes or systems save time and money.

In business, recipes or systems for every task are liberating. I hear flooring store managers and owners constantly complain they can’t leave or are afraid to leave because of what might happen in their absence.

When on vacation, they may call their store once or twice a day to make sure everything is running smoothly or see if there is a big decision that needs to be made.

What about you? Are you addicted to being the answer person? I have even heard some brag their businesses would fall apart without them. I wonder why would anyone brag about that? All it shows is incompetence and the lack of understanding what it takes to be an entrepreneur—and a leader.

Entrepreneurs, those who build businesses, do not want to be involved in the day-to-day workings of the company. Their goal is to build businesses, not run them.

Initially, entrepreneurs will be involved in the day-to-day running of a new enterprise. But as they begin to fine-tune the business systems or recipes, they begin to extricate themselves from minutia of running the business. Their systems will solve most problems, because they will overcome the unpredictability of employees. The systems transform employee-problems into growth-opportunities, eliminating the need for management decisions in most cases.

Entrepreneurs teach their employees the systems, the metrics and then the employees manage themselves. That doesn’t mean there is no accountability. The entrepreneur builds into his systems checks, balances and moments of accountability. Without accountability, there is mediocrity. If you don’t create systems by which your business will run you will not be a true entrepreneur. Instead of owning a business, you will own a job, a significantly different kind of enterprise.

I believe there are five steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur. The first is acquiring an entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurs think differently. They just don’t do things differently; they do different things.

They guide their actions by the questions they ask themselves: How can I get my business or systems to work whether I’m there or not? How can I get my employees to work without my constant supervision? How can I systematize my business, so I can replicate it at other sites, and replicate it so effectively that the last unit runs as smoothly as the first? How can I liberate myself from the business and yet still own it? How can I turn my business into a profit-making machine?

The typical business owner or manager’s mindset: How can I make more sales and more profit? How will I pay my installers on Friday?


Entrepreneurial Vision 

Step two is to acquire an entrepreneurial vision. A vision is defined as the clearest possible mental picture of a future desired result. As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Entrepreneurs know where they are going and what they want; they define their desired results. The “how” part of the equation is not always clear. By having a clear vision and doing their homework, entrepreneurs using their imaginations will discover the solutions they need to bring their vision to fruition.

They develop their vision again by asking themselves additional questions: What do I want this business to look like when I’m ready to sell it or leave it to my children? How much do I want it to be worth? What do I have to do to make the business worth that? How will I make it unique? What will be its unique selling proposition? How will I position the business in my market against my competitors?

What is critical to understand is the entrepreneur doesn’t always know “how” he will accomplish his vision. His vision engages his imagination and creativity until he discovers the solutions he needs to solve his issues.

Step three is to consider your use of time. In a recent study of 500 corporations, the number one cause of failure in business is poor use of time.

True entrepreneurs use their time differently than typical business owners. Instead of using the majority of their time putting out fires, answering employees’ questions to which they wish the employees already knew the answers, checking up on employees, making sales, handling customer problems, doing other people’s job, entrepreneurs devote most of their time to business development. That includes things like planning long-term strategies, managing and improving internal business systems, studying the business financials and observing, coaching and training employees.

Entrepreneurs know doing business is important, but business development is the priority. Their goal is not to do business, but to build one.


To Do List

Entrepreneurs begin their day with a plan or a to do list. They are well aware that without a plan, they will not control their day or their time.

Customers, installers and salespeople will always be knocking at the door. They say the average manager is interrupted every seven minutes. Entrepreneurs have to focus in order to be effective. They have to keep their priorities at the top of their minds. Without a list, it is easy to get caught up in the moment. When that happens, one stays busy, but accomplishes little.

“Good things only happen when planned; bad things happen on their own.” That, by the way, was from Phil Crosby. Sometime comedians say things in the truest sense.

Step four may be the most difficult of all, even for the entrepreneur. That is the documentation process of the systems. It includes identifying each job position necessary in the company with its description and standards of performance.

Then the entrepreneur begins the documentation of all the procedures and their associated tasks required to operate the company; each to be placed in a notebook, labeled “Procedures.” The entrepreneur would also create an employee handbook that describes the history of the company, its goals, its policies in reference to employees, i.e., vacations, sick leave, etc., and its code of conduct.

Each procedure would have a checklist of actions, much like what a pilot would use before taking off. In fact, these are exactly like the standard operating procedures of flying a plane. Can you imagine a pilot flying a plane any way he wants? A pilot must follow the recipe or system if safety is a priority.

By the way, this process does not happen overnight. Developing procedures and fine-tuning systems is a continuous, on-going process.

The final and fifth step in becoming an entrepreneur is disciplining yourself and your employees to follow your company’s standard operating procedures. You must train them, teach them and hold them accountable to follow your recipes. If you do, then you can gradually and slowly extricate yourself from the business.

Wouldn’t you want to just own your business and not run it? After all, it’s got to be 5 o’clock somewhere.