Rem Oculee is the founder and CEO of 9Q Ventures and Confidence Wealth Management. He also wrote the best-selling book, The Exit Mindset.
Let me ask you a question: As a CEO, is your company a self-running enterprise? In other words, could you leave your organization for three or four months, secure in the knowledge that it would continue to seamlessly grow and scale in your absence?
If you’re like many business leaders, your answer to this question is a resounding no. There’s no way you can leave your business for a month, let alone four. You might not even be able to leave for a week without a negative impact. There are far too many crises that come up each day—far too many fires that require your personal attention to put out.
It’s nothing to be ashamed of; this is common in many organizations. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to run your business. Indeed, all the time you devote to solving problems is time you cannot spend on more important things such as growing and scaling. On top of that, when your time is taken up with crisis management, you increase your risk of burning out.
That’s the bad news. But there’s good news, too: By implementing three simple yet powerful steps (which I’ll walk you through here), you can transform your organization into one that almost runs itself.
When your company runs on autopilot, you reduce the number of problems you have to solve each day. Yes, problems will still arise, but your organization will experience far greater stress-free growth, and you will get back the time and energy that have been missing for so long.
1. Focus on the big picture.
Far too many business leaders focus more on tactics than strategy. In other words, they pay attention to the minutiae that arises every day rather than thinking in terms of the big picture. Unfortunately, doing this will wreak havoc on your ability to create and sustain a self-running company.
When you don’t focus on the big picture, you run the risk of creating unintended problems every time you try to solve a challenge. When that happens, you have to scramble to solve the mayhem you unintentionally created.
For example, let’s say you have a production problem. You fix it, but in doing so, you create a new problem: You don’t have enough salespeople to handle the increased production. Now you have excess inventory sitting around, which leads to cash flow problems.
Did you anticipate any of these issues when you addressed the production problem? No. Because you didn’t step back and consider the big picture, you didn’t set up a process—right from the beginning—to address the production problem and the problems that would arise from fixing it.
2. Adopt an exit mindset.
To avoid making this mistake, you have to continually act as if you are exiting the company. How do you do that? By adopting what I call the “exit mindset.” To put it another way, you must get in the habit of considering whether someone you sold the company to would be able to run it successfully from the moment they took over.
If the answer is no, start thinking about how to change that. Often, the key is to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) that would enable anyone to come in and run the company. You should also create SOPs that would allow someone to come in and handle any task in any department.
When you adopt an exit mindset, you automatically start putting procedures in place that support your company in becoming a self-running organization. That means that anyone (including you) can leave without negatively impacting the business because there are processes in place to allow someone else to seamlessly step in and do that work.
When you create SOPs, you also ensure your entire company isn’t forced to look to you to solve every problem, because everything is documented. People have the tools and the knowledge they need to do their jobs, even when your attention is elsewhere.
3. Get the right people.
The final step in building a self-running company comes down to people. You need enough people — and the right people — to do the jobs that need to be done.
Please understand me: I am by no means saying you need 20, 30 or 40 (or more) people. With the right mindset and proper SOPs, you could have as few as one or two people. The point is not to add people casually; the point is to carefully think through your needs, look at your processes and make an informed decision about how many people it will take to accomplish the necessary tasks with maximum efficiency.
You must also make sure there are procedures in place to ensure the people you bring on communicate openly and appropriately with each other. That way, everyone works together smoothly to achieve the desired end result.
Remember, taking this step significantly minimizes problems. It also means that even if you exit the company (whether temporarily or permanently), everything will continue to run smoothly. That’s the beauty of creating a self-running company.
Come back to the process.
At the end of the day, this three-step process will set your organization up to practically run itself. However, as I noted at the beginning, no company in the real world will ever be 100% problem-free — and that’s OK.
It doesn’t matter whether your business is a one-person operation or a large organization. As long as you continue to come back to these steps, you’ll continually refine your company and keep it moving ever closer to the ultimate goal of running on autopilot.
So, if you’ve had enough of the pain of constantly trying to put out an unending string of fires, it’s time to make a decision. Decide today that what you have right now is unacceptable. Decide today that you’re going to create a self-running company. Then, take the steps I’ve described here, and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to achieving that goal.