One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is maximizing the use of your time.
As a founder you never get a nice, contained list of responsibilities to focus on. Instead you get one massive list titled: “Do everything to keep the business going”.
The thing is, no matter how talented you may be and how many awesome skills you have, you can’t do it all.
So, it’s on you to figure out which parts of the business are critical for you to be working on at any given time. Where are your contributions truly unique? Where do you provide the most value?
If the business hinges on you running it and executing all the work, you’re never going to be able to grow.
I read a great article recently from serial entrepreneur and angel investor, Jeff Seibert. In it, he talks about the concept of founders needing to fire themselves from roles.
I summarized his concept in a tweet as:
- Understand the role first
- Hire someone better than you to do it
- Empower that person to make decisions
That simple structure really nails the philosophy you need to grow a successful company.
But it’s still super hard.
Understanding the Need
My company, Map & Fire, focuses on providing the resources business leaders and entrepreneurs need to be successful. This is mainly done through strategy consulting services. I help clients find their direction, innovate new offerings, and market them to their audience.
I love working with people who are passionate about what they do and helping them uncover new insights and solutions. But the challenge with a service-based model is that it’s limited by the number of hours I have available.
The other challenge is that consulting can be expensive. I don’t want someone to avoid getting help strictly because of cost. To support that, I want to productize these concepts and processes to help as many people as possible.
Right now on the Map & Fire website you can download free, DIY worksheets that are the first iteration of that productized concept:
Click below to access the worksheets!
But in this next phase I want to take some of those ideas to the next level and turn them into real digital products. This will make it even easier to use and provides a less expensive counterpoint to the consulting option.
To build that product though requires technical execution.
Understanding the Role
My career started in Computer Science and I’ve spent years building and designing all kinds of products.
So, when I decided to dig into this, I explored a few different technical options. After some research, I decided to focus on Angular, Bootstrap, and Firebase.
If you’ve never heard of any of those things, don’t worry they’re just tools for building digital products.
The point is that I was excited about the prospect of learning some new tools and started absorbing tutorials and courses.
Despite my background, I realized after a week of tinkering that it was going to take a lot of time to get proficient with these tools. I’d made a lot of progress, and created some basic examples of what I wanted. But my overall understanding was still pretty shallow.
However, I now understood the role.
I had a sense of what was necessary and the complexity of it. So, I needed to make a decision on whether to:
- Keep investing time doing it myself
- Fire myself, and find someone better than me to help
In the past, my inclination would have been to keep digging in for a while until I got where I wanted to go.
But I knew that wasn’t the right decision. This wasn’t where my time was best spent.
My goal wasn’t to become a great developer, my goal was to build a great product.
Instead, I should use my understanding of the work to empower someone else. Someone who’s way better at this stuff than I am.
The Satisfaction of Firing Myself
The rest of this story is still a work in progress. I’m in discussions on some potential solutions, but nothing’s locked in.
The important piece though is embracing my need to be fired. 🙂
That doesn’t mean I’ll never touch technical aspects of this work. Map & Fire doesn’t have its own fully staffed team (yet), so I’ll be very much involved. It simply means there needs to be someone else better than me that leads it right now. This means I can get there faster, create a better product, and keep my focus on the responsibilities that are unique to me.
Making that decision, even in the face of some uncertainty, provided an immediate sense of relief. Not only do I not need to be the one who solves every problem, I’ll be way more successful letting someone else do it.
Do You Want to Fire Yourself Too?
There are of course challenges with this type of thing. Even if you want to hand something off, you have to find the right person, establish a new relationship, figure out compensation, etc.
Those things require effort for sure, but are tons of talented people out there who would love to use their super powers to help with your project. You may have to spend some money to get them, but in exchange you can focus on bringing in new work, growing the business, and maximizing your own value.
Give it some thought and see what role you’re currently playing that you could give yourself the axe on.