As small-business owners, we are indeed superheroes. There are few people braver than those who launch a business in a single bound. Our extraordinary powers of unbridled strength, steely resolve and optimistic tenacity bring awe to those around us. As the superhero co-founder of NutraBella, it often felt like everything had to be done by me and me alone. Wonder Woman would never delegate or ask for help, right? WRONG. This sense of “superpower-self” can often lead to self-destruction.
Here are some ways to ensure you maintain your superhero status AND grow your business successfully with a group of “Guardians of the Galaxy”:
1. Get Yourself Some Robins
Every Batman needs at least one Robin, if not many. There are some jobs just not meant for you to do. As one of my mentors at Intuit says, “Leslie, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” And it’s OK not to be great at everything. It’s truly awesome to find people who love to do what you don’t want to do. Think about what you could be doing with your time, instead of wrangling whatever parts of your business you don’t love. Could you reach out to five customers instead of packing boxes? You might be surprised how much you can move your business forward by bringing on a Robin or two.
2. Don’t Let Your Business Take Over Your Life
Most small-business owners tell me that their business is their oxygen. Their business is their life, and their life is their business. I get it – when I co-led NutraBella, I used to take every success and every failure as my own. I got married a few years into our business. I’ll never forget the moment when I was getting ready for the biggest day of my life and I was on the phone with one of our largest customers, who was very unhappy. Accidentally, I had shipped her three pallets of the same product, instead of three different products. And I was trying to solve it, while putting on my wedding dress. The reason for my mistake was obvious. I should not have been shipping big orders the week of my wedding! I almost ruined my special day because I couldn’t separate. I remember that situation like it was yesterday. My customer doesn’t even remember it happened. Don’t work when you should be taking care of life.
3. Prevention, Not Cure
I’ve been traveling a lot recently and every time I hear the flight attendant say “Put your oxygen mask on first before you help others,” I can’t help but think of small business owners. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not putting my health first. I was so busy pleasing our vendors, customers, employees and investors that I didn’t take care of myself. And my health suffered for it. One winter, I came down with a terrible bronchitis. But the next week, I had an east coast trip planned to see investors, big customers and suppliers. Instead of slowing down, by the time I got on the plane east, I had lost my voice. And it stayed gone for the entire week. My meetings were a complete waste! As business owners, our first commitment should be to ourselves. We are the ones who set the tone, the culture, and the vision for our companies. If we are not taking care of #1, we risk burn out, resentment and our health. Prevent it, before you have to cure it.
4. Train Your Team, Like Your Superhero Life Depended On It
Even superheroes need a break. But as business owners, we often can’t leave because we don’t have backup. Nicole Hitchcock, owner of Get It Done in Palo Alto, Calif., recently told me: “In my last business, I never took the time to train my employees. So if I went on vacation, they called me every 10 minutes.” Some vacation! Now, Nicole is doing things differently. She has created a training program to ensure consistency and to enable her to recharge when she needs it. Investing in your team will intensify your superpowers, not harm them. Do it today – it’s never too late.
5. Let It Go
Once you train your team, don’t hold them back. Get out of their way and support them in growing your business. Most magic from superheroes when you inspire them with trust to get the job done. Encourage your team so that you can focus on what is exclusively owner material. You can’t do it all. Elsa’s ill-fated motto of “conceal, don’t feel” set her up for danger and failure. I prefer the motto “feel, don’t conceal” for superheroes. Your team deserves your trust – if you hire the right people and take the time to train them, it is your duty as a superhero to them get out of their way. Trust and they will rise to the occasion. To grow your business, you must expand beyond your superpower-self. One person is simply not scalable. Remember, when Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl wanted to return to being superheroes, they quickly learned that they needed the entire family to save the world. The more you can boost your superpower-self with a team and set them up to defend the small-business universe with training and trust, the stronger your powers will ultimately become.