How to begin running your business on autopilot? (and take back your life).

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How to begin running your business on autopilot? (and take back your life).

Whew! 2016 is coming to an end and I feel like I have been running a race. I own and operate a business for over 3 years now, while working full time, lecturing part time, taking courses here and there and well not to mention raising a wonderful 8 year old boy. Yes I know! All my friends and family firmly believe that I am not human and wonder how I turn 24 hour days into 30/36 hour days.

Candidly, I started my business out of a necessity! After separating from a full time job that had become too stressful, I took up every opportunity that I could to help me survive and build my business. Three and a half years later I am totally swamped (and grateful).  

However, at the beginning of 2016 heading into my 3rd year as an entrepreneur, I realized I was going about growing my business the wrong way. Although, I had so many ideas and projects that I was working on, I wasn’t accomplishing very much. I was working very hard, long hours and underachieving the goals I set for myself and my business.

The truth is, most successful businesses have not been built in solidarity; and I had to come to that realization very early. In the haste of just surviving, I missed the part of what building a company is supposed to provide – a quality of life I truly desire.

Any hoot, I know many of you entrepreneurs can relate….and trust me running around saying yes to everyone does nothing but damage your relationships and put a strain on your health.

From experience here are the common mistakes business owners make:

1.   Doing it all yourself – As a small business owner, this may have been my biggest mistake. I wanted for a long time to control every aspect of my business – my brand, the accounting, the inventory, pricing…absolutely everything. Guys, this simply is not possible for long term success. At some point you will have to pass the baton on to someone...just make sure that person is 'in it to win it.'

2.   Ineffective delegation – Because I wanted to control everything,  I didn’t delegate effectively to the key persons in my life.Suffice it to say when I did delegate to them this year, they proved that they were more than competent to handle the job. Use the people in your life who are experts in their field…and its okay to ask them to do work initially for free (just as long as you do not overdo it and have a plan to compensate them later.)

3.   Short term focus – When building a business you need to think about what you want the business to look and feel like in the next 1-3 years. If you do not envision what it should look like in 3 years time and put the necessary steps in place you will end up in the same place you are now, six months or a year from now.

Running on autopilot:

So how do you begin running a business on autopilot? The truth is, it starts with you as the leader identifying what areas need to be changed. For me, I started this introspection at the very beginning of 2016. I knew that if I wanted my company to be profitable and successful I would need to develop systems, begin outsourcing and utilize automation where necessary. These were the steps I took:

1.   Change my thoughts – The first thing I did was stop thinking about my business as a one man show. None of the great entrepreneurs that I look up to run their business alone, so why should I? This is not easy to do when you feel confined by limited financial resources or when you feel that others do not understand your vision. Sometimes we just need to take a leap of faith knowing that making the first step is better than doing nothing at all.

2.   Automate – Because I am undeniably one of the busiest people ( seriously! ) I needed to automate many systems in my business to increase productivity. This involved for instance, setting up FB posts on a Sunday for my account and that of my clients, sometimes for the next week or two weeks ahead. It also means developing email campaigns, templates for clients such as business plans, forms, invoicing etc. I also call clients between 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm on assigned days to make sure that I am still connecting with them. Even setting up customer visits and actions on a calendar will ensure that you achieve all that is required. This can also guarantee you have a snap shot of what needs to take place every single day to achieve your goals.

3.   Hire an Assistant- For many entrepreneurs, the next step of growth is recognizing that we need help. Nowadays, this does not have to be as expensive as there are many ‘virtual assistants’ who will support you in running errands, booking clients, responding to emails and so on; allowing you to focus your energies on more profitable tasks.

4.   Hire a business coach – If you can hire a business coach I would suggest that you do. Too many entrepreneurs think they are all alone but the truth is the challenges that I face are not unlike those faced by other entrepreneurs world wide. A business coach makes you accountable, but more importantly, you will begin to see goals being met.

So to my fellow entrepreneurs, as 2016 comes to a close, it is my hope that we all continue the introspection, placing our businesses on autopilot (where necessary) in order to make it thrive without consuming you every single day.


Debbie-Ann Jollie is a Marketing Strategist and the principal Director of HashSpace Limited. She is a certified trainer with over 15 years experience in marketing management both in public and private organizations as well as through consulting.


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