A couple of decades ago, a programmer/writer/polymath named Bill Templeton calculated Bill Gates’ hourly wage at $300 per second and concluded that if he dropped a thousand-dollar bill, it would not be worth his time to pick it up.
Most of us don’t have an hourly wage that makes picking cash up off the ground a waste of time, but we still need to consider how valuable our time is and how to spend it.
Many businesses start small with a handful of employees taking on multiple tasks. The head of the company could be the head of sales and the account manager. The administrative assistant might handle everything from bookkeeping to social media posting.
As the company grows, this “jack-of-all-trades” approach becomes impractical.
Instead, you hire experienced sales staff, accountants, writers, and HR people, leaving you to focus on the tasks you do best.
When we hire people we calculate the return on investing in that employee. How many sales make that salesperson worth their salary? Is a full-time bookkeeper worth the expense?
Like everyone else in your company, you too have a monetary value, although you may not know exactly what it is. Even Bill Gates may never have calculated whether picking up dropped cash was a good use of his time.
It’s important to know what your time is worth and when to expend it.
As your business grows, you will need to periodically reconsider what tasks are still worth your time, and what can be delegated or outsourced. At first, you may be the only person fully equipped to train new staff, but as those trainees gain experience, they become the trainers of future hires. “If you want to do something right, do it yourself” gives way to “I trust my staff to do the right thing, I’ve given them the tools & resources they need to be successful, and if they make a mistake now and then, we will learn from it.”
In my own case, I recently decided that being responsible for the day to day management of DashboardNY was no longer the best use of my time. Instead, I needed to be focused on the bigger picture, cultivating new business opportunities, and preparing for the future of the firm. So I hired a new president, Mathew Heggem, to take on that role and left myself with the responsibilities that I’m most passionate about as the CEO.
That’s the beauty of really growing your own business. As the company evolves and you focus on your own leadership development, you are afforded the opportunity to focus on the things you do best. If you’re smart with your planning and manage your finances well, you’ll hire for all the parts of the business that need someone else other than you to make the greatest difference.
That said, I am grateful to have a team of skilled employees. Yet, there are still times when my own skills are called for and I must choose to leverage my time to take decisive action.
There are useful prioritization systems, like the Eisenhower Matrix or the Four Ds, that offer formulas to decide which tasks to do now, to do later, to delegate, and to discard. Beyond that general framework, here are times when your personal touch is warranted:
When your presence makes the difference.
If you need to win a prospect, woo a client or negotiate a big deal, your own presence as CEO can be a powerful persuader. “I’m going to take care of this personally” will always impress.
When it’s urgent and no one else is available.
If you’re the only one in the office and an important document needs to be printed out, then obviously you’re going to do it yourself. You’re never important enough to let crucial work slide.
No one else knows how to do it.
Even if you have a well-trained staff, there may be unusual needs no one else is prepared for. That’s when you step forward. Just make sure you document the steps you take so your staff knows how to handle it in the future.
Your leadership is just needed.
Sometimes the reason to do something is that your staff will appreciate it. Your ability to set the company’s standards is an important one. Working with them on a task sets an example for how they work with the other employees or your clients.
You absolutely love it, and it DOESN’T disrupt others.
One of the reasons people start their own business is to be in control of their work-life and do what they love. Even if you can delegate it, if it’s your favorite thing in the world to do, well, you’re the boss! Just make sure you don’t become the bottleneck or disrupt others from doing their job with your “boss” aura.
In any business, you need to decide what is worth your time and what isn’t. Remember; you can always hire someone else to pick up those thousand-dollar bills. Though personally, I’m no Bill Gates and I’d enjoy that part of the job myself!
Want to free up your assistant from the bookkeeping?
Need help figuring out when to make that next hire?
Be it time or money, let’s look at your numbers to determine how best to leverage your small business’s greatest assets.
Carol Soman CPA
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER