Listen to the podcast episode on Spotify, Apple or Amazon Music.

In my book Accidental Millionaires, I outlined the strategic planning process in Chapter 4. If you want to read it in full, you can do so here. But if you haven’t read it, there are five key stages:

  1. Where you want to be in (say) 3 years’ time?
  2. Where are you now?
  3. What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) do you need to hit to get from where you are now to where you want to be?
  4. What actions will you need to take to hit those KPIs?
  5. What will stop you?

Most business coaches (even the really good ones) spend most of their time focussing on the 4th part of that equation; the action plan. And that works with a lot of business owners.

But many business owners fall away from the plan very quickly because “events” take over. Someone leaves. The order book looks a bit low and they need to rustle up some business. The contracts manager they took on isn’t quite as good as his cv (or his interview) suggested. Materials prices increase as a result of some world event that no-one could have predicted and belts now need be tightened.

These are the things that will stop you i.e. point 5!

The reality is that if you’re honest about it, this business is far too dependent on you.

So for each task you have on today, you need to ask yourself:

“Are you the only person that can do this job?”

I once got asked that by a very wise business mentor.

He wasn’t talking about my actual job. What he was telling me was that I should have a sign on my desk that said that to challenge myself about every task that I was doing.

Human beings are creatures of habit. We have to be otherwise we would hardly get anything done. Imagine if every single day, you had to think of a different way to get out of bed, a different place to brush your teeth, a new and exciting breakfast that you’d never had before.

David Attenborough often gets asked about why he always wears the same clothes. Beige slacks and pale blue shirt. in case you’re wondering. One reason is it helps with continuity so that if they have to re-film anything, he’s always wearing the same thing.

But equally, it’s one less thing for him to think about. Consider all the knowledge that he’s got about the planet, animals and creatures that live now or millions of years ago? That’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of head space. There’s one less thing to think about if you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to wear.

As our businesses grow, so does our frustration with the inability of everyone around us to think like we do.

The (unrealistic) dream is that we will find mini versions of ourself who can automatically think like we do and act in our interests.

But constantly looking for a person like that, is a thankless task.

If you ever find them, then hang onto them as long as possible because there’s no guarantee that they are going to be around forever.

It’s possible that just at the point you feel they are doing the job the way you want them to do it, they will get headhunted by a competitor for more than you can afford to pay them.

Or they may go off and set up their own company. Just like you did.

So, unless hope is a huge part of strategy, then you are going to have to have a re-think.

Let’s go back to when you started the business. How long did it take you until your week was full? A few months? A couple of years? Maybe you were pretty good at taking on staff at the right time to enable the business to grow.

Without realising it, your management style evolved. It may have been based on the things you learned from those who managed you. Or perhaps it was based on trying to do everything in a different way to some of the hopeless bosses you had in the past. Maybe it just evolved based on trial and error and the things you learnt as you went on, with a little bit of your own personal principles (and sometimes prejudices) thrown in.

But whatever that style is, sooner or later the business will find itself on a bit of a plateau.

Every business has a natural plateau to it. And without adapting your style you will never get off that plateau.

The first step is that you have to learn to trust other people. Within reason.

A lot of business owners really struggle with this. They know they need some help but the thought of getting that from someone they don’t know fills them with dread. Sometimes they just stick as they are as a one man or woman business. Much less trouble that way!

Sometimes they carry this around with them until an opportunity presents itself. A friend is unhappy in their job or a family member becomes unemployed. “What about coming to work for me?” they say.

Occasionally this works. But it’s a road full of jeopardy.

A friend of mine from college took on his best friend as a salesman. These guys had been best men for each other at their respective weddings. Six months after one started work for the other, they fell out and have never spoken again.

As parents, we are always worried about our children and always looking for ways to help them. Situations in their lives arise where we think we can help them and ourselves by giving them a job.

There are advantages of this. Hopefully they care for us as people more than our employees do. Hopefully!

But of course, they come with baggage. Namely their relationship with us. They might not take a job with us as seriously as they would take a job with someone else. They might not take kindly to us telling them what to do or what they did wrong. If it’s our kids, we may find yourself re-enacting conversations from their teenage years that we thought were in the past!

There are lots of people out there who can help you though. Yes, we know the UK job market makes it hard to find staff at the moment but if you look hard enough you will find them. That might require you to recruit offshore (but we’ll get to that later).

You’ve probably been on management courses. If you’re reading this book, you’ve probably read other books. The one-minute manager by Spencer Blanchard is a great book to help you with that journey from taking on a new employee to them being someone you can trust to get on with their job with very little input from you.

But you’ve got to be prepared to make that journey.

You are? Great, let’s keep going then.

Listen to the podcast episode on Spotify, Apple or Amazon Music.

If you’d prefer… Watch the podcast on YouTube 

Transcript

Malcolm Palmer (00:03.03)
Hi everybody, welcome to the third podcast in our series, Making Your Business Less Dependent On You. This episode is called, Are You The Only Person Who Can Do This Job?

These podcasts are sponsored by A4G Chartered Accountants and Durban Offshoring. Now, I’m hoping that a few of you read the book that I released in 2021. In case you didn’t, it was called Accidental Millionaires, the secret mindset successful business owners share with sporting legends. And I wrote it with the help of two friends of mine who are also two of the UK’s greatest athletes, Steve Backley and Roger Black. Anyway.

Enough publicity for that. Let’s just talk about chapter four. Chapter four is the one I’m going to briefly refer to, but only one particular aspect. So chapter four talks about the five stages of the strategic planning process, which are one, where do you want to be in three years time? Well, it doesn’t have to be three. It can be any period you like really, but three years is a good timeframe. Could be three months, could be 10 years.

But I want you to really think about where you want to be. Imagine you’ve achieved the things you want to achieve in that time period. What does your business look and feel like? Get that vision frame. Next, where are you now? Best answer I ever got was complete and utter bloody shambles. And I thought this business was really well organized just because up to that point, all I’d seen was their finances and everything was really well organized. But actually, operationally, they were a

completely utter bloody shambles. And seen as part of their job was to deliver limbs to people and they’d had examples of where they’d delivered an arm to somebody who ordered a leg.

Malcolm Palmer (02:04.438)
Where are you now?

Malcolm Palmer (02:10.186)
Step two, where are you now?

So this is just in comparison to where you want to be, where is the business right now? Best answer I ever got was complete and utter bloody shambles, Malcolm. And this was a company that I actually thought was really well organized, but what I realized was that it was their finances that were really well organized, and that was what I’d seen up to that point. And operationally, they were indeed a complete and utter bloody shambles. One of the things they did was they delivered.

artificial limbs to people. And at one point they told me a story where somebody had been given a leg instead of an arm or maybe the other way around. I can’t remember. But so turned into a bit of a therapy session that one. Anyway the third step is what are the key performance indicators, KPIs for short, that you need to hit to get from where you are right now to where you want to be. Sometimes these things

can’t be measured, they’re a little bit subjective. But if you can measure them, then that’s really important because on this journey, as the saying goes, if you can measure it, you can manage it. So now you know what your KPIs are. The next thing is to identify all those action points that you’re gonna need to do in order to hit the KPIs and get from where you are now to where you wanna be.

And lastly, the fifth part is identifying the things that will stop you. Now, most business coaches, even the really good ones, spend most of the time focusing on the fourth part of that equation, the action plan, and they often forget about the fifth part. But the problem is that many business owners fall away from the plan very quickly because events take over. You know, someone important in the business leaves, the order book looks a bit low and you need to rustle up some business.

Malcolm Palmer (04:06.07)
The contracts manager you took on isn’t quite as good as his CV or his interview suggested. Materials prices increased as a result of a world event that no one could have predicted. And you have to tighten your belt. These are the things that will stop you. The reality is, if you’re honest about it, the biggest thing that will stop you is that the business is too dependent on you. So all those plans you have will get cut down.

simply because you don’t have the time to get started on them. And that’s the biggest barrier. So, let’s see if we can smash through that barrier today. Think about all the tasks you have to do today. And for each one, ask yourself this question. Are you the only person in the world that can do this task? I once got asked that by a very wise business mentor.

He said I should have a sign on my desk that said exactly that. Are you the only person in the world that could do this task? He wanted me to challenge myself about every task that I was doing. The problem is that we’re all creatures of habit. It’s inherent within our nature as human beings and we have to be. Otherwise, we’d hardly get anything done. I mean, just imagine that every single day you had to

Think of a different way to get out of bed, a different place to brush your teeth, a new and exciting breakfast that you’ve never had before. It would be exhausting. The legendary Sir David Attenborough often gets asked why he always wears the same clothes. Think about it, beige slacks, pale blue shirt, in case you’re wondering. You can picture it now, can’t you? One reason is that it helps with continuity, so they always can just re-film anything.

quite easily because he’s always wearing the same thing. But the other reason is that it’s one less thing for him to think about. I mean, just consider all that knowledge that he’s got about the planet, animals and creatures that live now or millions of years ago. That’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of headspace. There’s one less thing to worry about if you don’t have to think about what you’re going to wear.

Malcolm Palmer (06:24.942)
The problem is that we create habits which are unique to ourselves, though. So as our businesses grow, so does our frustration with the inability of everyone. And as our businesses grow, so does our frustration with the inability of everyone around us to think like we do. We’ve all got this unrealistic dream.

It’s that we can find mini versions of ourselves who can automatically think like we do and act in our interests. So spoiler alert, they’re not out there. You are probably unique and you’re probably wasting your time trying to find that mini me. If you do find them, hang on to them as long as possible, because there’s no guarantee that they’re going to be around forever.

it’s quite possible that just at the point you feel they’re doing the job the way you want them to do it, they’ll get headhunted by a competitor for more than you can afford to pay them. Annoying. Or they may go off and set up their own company, just like you did. So unless hope is a huge part of your strategy, then you’re going to have to have a rethink. So let’s go back to when you started the business. How long did it take until your week was full? A few months?

a couple of years, maybe you were pretty good at taking on staff at the right time to enable the business to grow. Without realising it, your management style evolved. It might have been based on the things you learnt from those who manage you, or perhaps it was based on trying to do everything in a different way to some of the hopeless bosses that you had in the past. That was definitely the case for me. I mean I had some good bosses, but I had…

few others that certainly left a lot to be desired. One in particular was really good at advising clients but just hopeless at getting anything finished. His office was stacked full of paper with unanswered letters from Inland Revenue draft accounts for him to review, bills he needed to approve and all sorts of unfinished work. One particular week he was on holiday and my colleague took a call from a very worried client.

Malcolm Palmer (08:49.206)
This chap was standing in his house with every bit of furniture he owned on a removal van outside. He was supposed to be moving house, but his mortgage lender had just told his solicitor that they couldn’t release the funds because they were still waiting for a reference from the accountant. That was us, of course. He told us that he chased my old boss for this reference five times.

And on the final occasion, it was told it had been done.

Malcolm Palmer (09:24.396)
was too embarrassed to admit that it hadn’t and then he forgot to do it anyway.

Malcolm Palmer (09:32.254)
And he’d gone to Spain. In the days before mobile phones, of course. So we had no way of getting hold of him. No one at our firm had even heard of this client, let alone knew enough to confirm his income. So we ploughed through pile after pile of paperwork until we found what we needed, whilst this whole chain of house buyers waited and wondered why they didn’t have the keys to their new house. I could tell stories for hours about this guy. Anyway.

The key lesson was that I resolved to always get my to-do list sorted at least once a week. So back in the day, I used to drive to the office on a Saturday morning, write notes to people on Post-it notes, stuck to sets of accounts or letters from the revenue, and I rewrote my to-do list for the week ahead. And then colleagues would come in on a Monday morning after a lovely weekend with a few little work presents waiting for them. No one complained.

I think it gave them the chance to plan their own week rather than getting ambushed by me all through the week. Of course, technology moves on. These days, my to-do list is on a spreadsheet. My delegation is done by email. You’ve probably got your own system. You may well have bits of software that work really well for you. I’d always advise against messaging via text or WhatsApp because that interrupts people’s private time and can

damage your relationship with them. It’s up to them whether they want to check their emails over the weekend, but they don’t really have a choice about the phone. Anyway, other than the technology aspects, that habit has served me well for 30 years. You’ve got your own habits, of course. They may just evolve based on trial and error and the things you learned as you went on with a little bit of your own personal principles thrown in. But wherever they are, sooner or later, your business will find…

that it reaches a natural ceiling. Every business, or perhaps I should say, every management style, has a natural ceiling to it. If you’re happy there, then great. Just keep going. But I know lots of people aren’t happy there, because they can see the potential for the business to go further. Without adapting your style, you will never break through that ceiling.

Malcolm Palmer (11:56.354)
The first step is you’ve got to learn to trust other people a bit more than you’ve done so far. Within reason.

Malcolm Palmer (12:06.074)
I know a lot of business owners really struggle with this. They know they need some help, but the thought of getting that from someone they don’t know fills them with dread. Sometimes they just stick as they are as a one man, a woman business. Much less trouble that way. Sometimes they carry this around with them until an opportunity presents itself. You know, a friend is unhappy in their job or a family member becomes unemployed. What about coming to work for me? They say. You’ve probably said it yourself.

I mean, occasionally that works, but it’s a road full of jeopardy. A friend of mine from college took on his best friend as a salesman. These guys have been best men for each other at their respective weddings. They went back years. Six months after one of them started working for the other, they fell out and they’ve never spoken again.

Alternatively, you get on the family rate. I mean, as parents, we’re always worried about our children. We’re always looking for ways to help them. Situations in their lives arise, and we think that we can help them and ourselves by giving them a job. Yeah, there are advantages of this. Hopefully they care for us as people more than our employees do. Hopefully, maybe not.

The biggest thing is, of course, they come with baggage. And that baggage is their relationship with us. I mean, first of all, they might not take a job with us as seriously as they would take a job with someone else. I mean, they might not take a job with us as seriously as they would take a job with someone else.

They might not take kindly to us telling them what to do or what they did wrong. Quite possible you might find yourself reenacting conversations in their teenage years. Tidy your room. I mean inbox. You get the picture. See it all the time.

Malcolm Palmer (14:06.158)
There are lots of people out there who can help you though. They’re not necessarily friends or family. I know the UK job market makes it hard to find staff at the moment. But if you look hard enough, you will find them. I mean, it might require you to recruit offshore, but we’ll get to that in a later episode.

Malcolm Palmer (14:34.251)
If you get that person on board, you’ve then got to build them into a valuable member of your team. I know you’ve probably been on some management courses to help you with all of this. You may have read some books on the subject. If you haven’t, you’ve only got time for one book. The one I would recommend is The One Minute Manager by Spencer Blanchard. Basically, it teaches you…

how to take an employee on that journey from a new member of staff who knows very little about your business to that person that you can trust to get on with their job on a day-by-day basis and you only need to check in with them for about a minute a day.

But you’ve got to be prepared to make that journey. Anyway, if you are, then great. We’ve got loads for you over the next few months. Hopefully you’ll tune in to the next podcast.

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