How you, as an entrepreneur, can finally get your time management under control
1. What are the responsibilities of the entrepreneur?
You are an entrepreneur. And I would like to ask you the following question: What are the actual tasks of an entrepreneur? your tasks?
When I ask this question, the first reaction is usually that this is obvious. After the request to write down these tasks of the entrepreneur, the confusion always increases. Mind you, it's not about the activities that you carry out every day as an entrepreneur, but about your tasks. If you have something to take away from this post, I would ask you to write down what you think the responsibilities of an entrepreneur are before you continue reading. And as completely as possible.
Did you make your list? Fine! How many tasks do you have? Fifteen? Twenty? Thirty? Forty? In any case, these regions are the average. And now I'll ask you one more question: Do you know of any person who can perform forty different tasks at top quality and at least get an occasional sight of family or bed? No? Me neither.
Even if time management seems to be the central problem for most entrepreneurs, this article is only of secondary importance. Because time management is trivial in principle and easy to understand: Find out what your most important long-term goals are. So look to your compass. And then plan the intermediate goals and tasks needed to achieve your long-term goals. So grab your calendar and watch and hit the road.
The point why time management doesn't work for most entrepreneurs is that they don't have clarity about their tasks.
I would like to begin by reassuring you. It's just seven things you need to do as an entrepreneur, no matter what your industry. But then in top quality. And if you can focus on just seven tasks—instead of forty—then you'll get a grip on your time management, too. This gives you a chance to identify which tasks are really important to you.
What are these tasks? I'll dig a little further into that. This is the only way to understand why there are these seven tasks and no others. And how the seven tasks work together.
2. What is the purpose of the company?
A doctor heals patients in his practice, a student learns at school, and a teacher teaches there. The tasks are dictated by the purpose of the respective organization and by the role that one holds there. It's the same with entrepreneurs. So the first two questions that arise are: First, what is the purpose of a business? Second, what is the role of the entrepreneur in the company?
There is no agreement even on the purpose of a company. There are four different opinions here. By far the most common is that a company has the purpose of generating profits and thus increasing the wealth of the shareholders or owners. This concept is the basis of the concept of shareholder value, which is particularly widespread in the USA. Ever since the concept of shareholder value was burnt out in Germany, there has been more talk of an increase in the value of the company. It sounds prettier, but it's the same.
Secondly, and especially in Germany, it is almost anchored in the Basic Law: the purpose of the company is to create jobs. A good company creates as many jobs as possible.
Third, the purpose of a company is to provide optimal benefit or value to its customers or to solve their problems. This attitude is propagated above all by companies in the environment of bottleneck-focused strategy, but also by management giants such as Peter Drucker, Fredmund Malik, and others.
And the fourth approach gathers all those who cannot decide. The concept of stakeholders was introduced as early as the 1920s, adding suppliers, banks, consultants, the public, and others to the above 3 groups (investors, employees, customers) and establishing that the purpose of a company is to please everyone as much as possible. The point is: 'Everybody's darling is everybody's dork'. That also applies here.
However, to decide on what is the primary goal toward which all actions are directed, it is sufficient to try to establish a cause-effect relationship between the three goals: providing value to customers, making profits, and jobs to accomplish.
For example: 'If you make a profit as an entrepreneur, the customer has a higher benefit' - is complete nonsense. 'When you create jobs, you make more profits' is also obvious nonsense. Try it! The only possible order is: 'If you increase the benefit for customers, they will buy more from you. That's why you need more employees and that's why profits increase.'
So the decision is clear: the primary purpose of the company is to satisfy the needs of customers. Investors and bankers on the one hand, and social politicians and trade unions on the other, may not like that. However, it coincides with what the most successful entrepreneurs and the most important management thinkers, such as Wolfgang Mewes, have discovered: If you focus primarily on the benefits for your customers, profits and jobs will automatically follow.
3. What is the role of the entrepreneur?
This gives us the first building block for our question: What are the tasks of the entrepreneur? We now know: that the purpose of the company is to produce benefits for its customers. So the second building block is still missing: what is the role of the entrepreneur?
The company and the entrepreneur are two different things. This understanding is important because many entrepreneurs started their businesses and did everything from the start. At this point, the company and the entrepreneur (better the self-employed person) were the same. When the entrepreneur was on vacation, so was the company. If the self-employed person thinks he is the company at this point, he is not entirely wrong.
Later, as the company grows, it becomes an independent entity and the role of the self-employed changes.
If he first worked mainly in the company, his task is now to work in the company.
The following image, which goes back to the successful American author Stephen Covey, illustrates this: You are in a jungle. Then you need people who clear the way with their machetes - the specialists. Then you need people to divide up the work so that nobody gets too tired, but everyone still gets on. These people also check whether individual professionals are more effective and why. Finally, you teach the others the optimizations. These are the managers. And then there's someone who sits up in the tree and calls down: 'Listen, boys and girls, we're in the wrong forest.' That's the entrepreneur.
As a freelancer, he is mainly concerned with hacking the way free, and as an entrepreneur with defining the way. And it is only in this phase, which I call the second growth hurdle and which is around 5 to 30 employees, that the entrepreneur goes from being self-employed to becoming an entrepreneur. At this point, a complete shift in self-image and role takes place—or at least it should. In a sense, it is a covert career change. To put it figuratively, the question arises as to how the self-employed person can get up the tree as quickly as possible in this phase.
Now let's put these two insights together. Firstly, the company's purpose is to provide value to its customers and secondly, the entrepreneur's purpose is to work on the company rather than in the company. The result is this: The product of the entrepreneur is the enterprise itself. So the entrepreneur does not sell clothes in a physical store but produces a system called an enterprise in which clothes are sold (and a benefit is provided to the customer). And he does not advise a consulting firm, but he produces a system called a consulting firm that offers the customer the best possible consulting services.
The product that the entrepreneur produces also has a customer. Namely his successor. Just as it is the task of the company to offer its customers optimal benefit, it is analogously the task of the entrepreneur to offer his customer, namely his successor, optimal benefit. In all probability, this will result in an increased company value in the event of a sale, but this is different from the targeted increase in company value. The aim is to create and increase the benefit for the successor.
The sole goal of the entrepreneur, which follows directly from his role, is therefore to create a company that offers the greatest possible benefit to his successor.
Before we get to the tasks that the entrepreneur must carry out to achieve his goal, one more point. The attentive reader may have noticed that the picture distinguishes between entrepreneurs and managers. I would like to make this even clearer: Entrepreneurs and managing directors (=managers) are also ideally two different people. Why?
Both work on the company, but with a different focus. The entrepreneur needs the broad view, the managing director the details. The entrepreneur is far in the future, the managing director in day-to-day business. The entrepreneur determines the strategy, and the managing director the tactics. The entrepreneur determines the major development, the managing director determines the operation of the company. Both tasks are necessary. And for both requirements, you need people with completely different mentalities and skills.
What seven tasks are required?
If one now considers which tasks are required to achieve the central goal of the entrepreneur, one comes to the following seven tasks. (These partly correspond to the only passage in the literature I know of about the tasks of the entrepreneur at Bodo Schäfer ):
Development, revision, and anchoring of the values and the entrepreneurial dream. Seneca already expressed this: "If you don't know which port you are heading for, no wind is favorable for you." You have to know what constitutes the benefit, and which values or motives are fulfilled or satisfied by it. Both for the customer of the company and your successor. And these values should be identical if possible, this is the only way you can build a credible company. This is not a task that can be worked out in a one-day vision workshop, but a permanent and ongoing task.
Strategy development and positioning. By this, I understand the basic orientation of the company: What are the strengths of the company? Which target group is addressed? What makes our company different? And then the question: How does the company get that into people's heads in such a way that customers are moved by it? This is also a permanent and ongoing task that requires immediate and direct contact with the target group.
Gaining and bundling of “external energy”: right employees, investors, and positive public. The company is not just an event for entrepreneurs and customers. Otherwise, he would be self-employed. So it needs the right people, capital, and a positive public. Consequently, you must wear this. This works all the better, the better you have fulfilled the first two entrepreneurial tasks. Then you can convey meaning and benefit. This is also – as is easy to see – a permanent and ongoing task.
Periodic waste disposal: In all living organisms - and a company is such - garbage accumulates. Obsolete Products. Customers who no longer fit the target group. Employees who no longer support the development of the company. Pointless or cumbersome processes. The problem with this is: that some are starting to love the trash. Here the job is attached to an old product, there a cumbersome process increases the importance of another employee and in a third position, an employee may simply be particularly good with a customer who no longer fits the target group. And for all these reasons, the cleaning stops. The only outside(!) person who also has the power to remove the garbage is the entrepreneur. If you were stuck in day-to-day business, you begin to love unsuitable customers and thus could not carry out your task. This is also an ongoing task.
Control. This is where most misunderstandings arise. The employees should not be checked first, nor should profits or sales be checked first. We had already established that the purpose of the company is to offer its customers outstanding benefits. If you claim that you are only concerned with the benefits for the customers and you run to the monthly BwA first, then you are not credible. The first thing you need to check as an entrepreneur is whether your business is fulfilling its purpose, i.e. providing value to customers. You only see this to a limited extent if you constantly look at your company. Only the customer can tell you that. So that's where the control starts. Immediately and directly with the customer.
The second is whether the company will offer even more superior value tomorrow. And only in this context, and subordinate to that, are sales and profits interesting. The third thing you need to control is creating systems that allow the business to function independently of you. That's the only way it's going to be interesting for a sequel.
Permanent development of one's personality. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly faced with new challenges. You are responsible for setting your company's itinerary in the market. You need to know the market, you need to know yourself, and you need to know the people. As all of this is in flux, you cannot standstill. In my opinion, entrepreneurs need to invest a minimum of 20%, preferably 33%, of their time in training and personal development. That means two to three and a half hours of learning and personal development in a 10-hour day. And every day!
Handing over the company to the successor: It should be noted that this is less about the specific handover process - experts can help you with that. Instead, you have to ask yourself a very important question: Who am I doing this for? So I have to choose my successor and constantly check whether I'm on the right path. My ultimate goal is to build my business in such a way that the chosen successor can make optimal use of it. In other words, I'm working to put myself out of a job.
What's the problem with focusing on these tasks?
"That will not do! When am I supposed to do my work then?” I have often heard indignant exclamations at this point. First the answer: "That - and nothing else - IS your work". Then the friendly counter-question: "What kind of work do you want to do instead?"
“Sell products!” – “Wrong. Is the job of sales.”
“Work out a financing plan!” – “Wrong. Is the job of the managing director.”
"Applying for financial support!" - "Wrong. Is the job of the finance department.”
"Address potential customers!" - "Wrong. Is the task of marketing and sales.”
"Create annual financial statements!" - "Wrong. Is the job of the CEO and the finance department.”
"Resolve conflicts with customers!" - "Wrong. Is the task of the management."
"Internal organization!" - "Wrong. Is the task of the board of directors and management.”
“Create systems!” – “Wrong. Is the task of the board of directors and management.”
Believe me, I've played this game many times: you won't find another job for the entrepreneur.
There are three reasons why this is so often a problem for former self-employed persons/future entrepreneurs. First, these tasks appear to most entrepreneurs as their tasks. The reason for this is simple: In the beginning, there are also the tasks of the self-employed. And as long as you believe it's your job, there's no need to change anything.
Secondly, someone has to perform these tasks, and apart from the previous entrepreneur no one does it well.
Third, most entrepreneurs' strengths lie in activities that are no longer their job. And if something doesn't go so well, then you automatically always do what you're good at first - in this case, unfortunately, not your tasks.
So, to come back to the picture above: How do you get up the tree as quickly as possible without everything collapsing? The first half of the task is already done! Once you have a clear idea of the problem and your tasks, the solution is almost entirely manual work. How to tackle this challenge particularly effectively is the subject of entrepreneur coaching during the second growth hurdle.