Ditch the hats. How to become the owner of a +$1 million business

Posted by The Icehouse on 7/03/2023 12:00:00 AM

One of the unique issues facing business owners turning over +$1 million is that you have to be over everything. You have four people to look after, maybe eight – each with their own skills and responsibilities. 

Naturally, you’re the “yes” person – you pay all the bills and are responsible for the direction of the business, but as you hit your first million and look to grow more, your team expands year-on-year and wearing every hat just isn’t feasible anymore.

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Basically, you can’t do everything, but the good news is that you don’t have to. Owners of this size of business need to understand the transformative nature of developing a mindset that enables them to shed and delegate and prosper.

Owners are often pleasantly surprised when they create the time to develop strategies around customers and offering, leadership and communication, resilience, financial literacy, creating value and understanding technology’s role in the future of work. It enables them to manoeuvre seamlessly through the growth phases of existence, survival, success and take-off.

But what time? Heidi Crockett, owner of Colab Brewing, tells a familiar story. “I run [the business] full-time. I do anything from brewing, to hitting the road to sell our products, delivering beers, writing reports and everything else!” 

This is typical, natural and understandable. So, what functions can owners delegate? “The irony is that these are some of the easiest hats to take off. Another resource can take care of administrative tasks, payroll, bookkeeping, but there’s a propensity for an owner to think, ‘But I could do it too. And I can't afford to do it yet.’ This just isn’t workable,” says Josie Adlam, lead facilitator for The Icehouse’s Taking Your Business Forward (TYBF) programme. 

“I often ask TYBF participants, ‘Well, if you weren't doing that, what else would you be using your time for?’ Would you be networking? Creating more business opportunities? Would you be thinking about the business and about alternate strategies to grow, to diversify your offering or diversifying your market? 

“This is your opportunity, because the model that you have, where you're in operational roles, as well as leading the business, is not sustainable as you grow.”

“TYBF reminded me that you can’t wear too many hats. People will often know more about your business in certain areas, and that’s fine. Getting outside help has also proved invaluable. There’s so much out there you can learn to improve your business, and solo business owners need all the help they can get,” says Phillippa Jacobs-Lory, owner of Pinnacle&Co. 

Business ownership isn’t really a “calling”. Owners are made, not born. While some may have started the business from scratch, others will have bought into the business several years after its foundation, arrived in the organisation after following a very different career path or joined to help a friend, family member or colleague. There’s a lot to learn, and knowing when to ask for help is hard. 

“It’s about embracing discipline. Once owners learn how to manage their time better, it makes them more efficient. It also allows them to think. You might have a list of things that you know you have to do, but you don't have to be productive in terms of outputs, because you can concentrate on outcomes for the business,” says Josie.

It can also set the ball rolling to bigger and better business ownership and leadership. “What TYBF really gave me was the confidence to generate my own ideas and thoughts and bring them to the table. It's given me the ability to have greater input in the planning of the future of the business, rather than just having one person responsible for coming up with the ideas and me agreeing,” says Catherine Leonard at Nagle Contracting.

If you’re not quite in the position to outsource tasks and you still need to wear a hat or two, it’s not the end of the world. Getting a better handle on specific parts of the business now, can help make for smarter decision-making when the time is right to delegate or hire someone new. 

“Coming from corporate and working with bigger businesses, I have always had a finance team, I never had to do the end of year accounts etc., so that [TYBF] was super beneficial, helping us change our money mindset,” says Kate Stanbury from Make Your Mark Signage.

“People always need to keep learning, even if they feel that they're flat or they think they ‘know that stuff’. It enables you to think differently, and you can focus more on the business development and the leadership of the business,” 

Ditch the hats, take the weight off and lighten the load to get the headspace you and your business deserve.

For information on programmes, workshops and business coaching services from The Icehouse, click here.

For more business ownership and leadership advice, check out more of our resources.

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