Freedom in business starts with strong leadership

By Edward Plant

A recent survey conducted by Suncorp revealed the top 10 reasons why people start their own Small-Medium.

The main motivators cited by Small-Medium Enterprise (SME) owners were:

  • Being the boss;
  • Better work-life balance;
  • Taking greater control of your life;
  • Spending more time with family;
  • Make more money;
  • Having control over who you work with.

Except that’s not exactly what happens, is it?

The same report also looked at how SME owners spend their time.

  • The average SME owner works 41 hours per week regardless of whether they are receiving payments from their business (you might dream of working 41 hours!!!);
  • 16 percent of owners work between 60 and 80 hours a week;
  • 6 percent work 80 hours or more (or maybe this is YOU???).

After seven years of working alongside small businesses operators, I can safely say that many are doing more than the average load.

So what exactly happens along the way to turn our vision on its head?  

Here’s a big clue: SME owners on average spend 69 percent of their time working in the business and only 31 percent working on developing and growing their business.

We offer leadership training programs to couples and business owners in Australia including Brisbane and Gold Coast. In our experience, the majority of people who go into business ownership have come to it because they have great technical skills — whether that be an electrician, accountant, web developer, health therapist, lawyer, financial adviser or you name it.

These folks have, most of the time, spent money and many years training in courses to improve those technical skills.

They become great at what eMyth author, Michael Gerber, calls “being a technician”.

They create great outcomes for their clients.

They get the job done to an incredibly high standard.

Their clients refer other clients….

But, sooner or later, this steady stream of work begins to take its toll.

The technician gets busy. They get reactive. Business is job-to-job.  They constantly feel like they are chasing their tails. They lose their ability to grow because they are stuck in a business that is reliant on them.  They are on a ship that is in the middle of the ocean, going nowhere except around in circles.

A business without leadership is a mess

Essentially, you (the boss!) end up working crazy hours, you never have enough time and your staff aren’t performing so you (the boss!) spend more time fighting fires and carrying out DIY patchwork.

Here’s the problem… Great technicians don’t always come with leadership skills

It’s a problem we see time and time again.

The courses technicians spent years of time and money on were great to support them to build their skills.  But because there were never specific modules on leadership during those courses, those same awesome workers who now find themselves business owners are challenged in how to lead, manage and grow their expanding organisations.

The longer you are in business and the more your business grows, the less time it will be possible for you to spend as a technician.  What normally happens when you are working too many hours per week is that you are spending all your time in ‘operational business mode’.

If you are being a technician you have no time to strategically plan and lead your business to greater growth.  

And, if you are the delivery person of the majority of your business products and services, it means your business does not have the capability to grow to where it can. You will be forever capped at a ceiling income, return and size of where you are, based on how many hours of work you can do a week.

To fully grow, you need to reduce the time you spend on the technical work, and you need to invest more time in management and then leading your business.

Learn to Lead-The-Ship

In our international best-seller Lead-The-Ship we delve deep into the 3 key components that business owners need to nail in order to create a self-sustaining culture that drives your business growth (aka how to get an A-Grade team in place to do the heavy lifting while you step up to run the business, earn more money and enjoy more free time for you).

And if we imagine your business as the ship again, well, it means you need to step back and direct the ship on the best course to get you to your dream location.

There are usually a few different ways to get you where you want to go – that is why Google Maps gives you some options for routes when you key in your destination. But when you have driven the same way hundreds of times, you no longer need to ask Google how to get there. You have tried and tested everything available, and you now know what the best way is.

This three-ingredient formula is just like your ‘best way’.  It has been built over several years’ experience working with hundreds of business owners who are sick of filling the coal of their steamboats and instead, start leading their ship.


Here are the 3 things you need to build for your business to create a self-sustaining culture that drives growth for you, and attracts and motivates A-Players:


1. Endurance

By this we mean the ability to create an inspired vision with strategies to realise this vision and the leadership to take you and your business to this reality.

Endurance is creating a sustainable growth strategy to fulfil your business dreams and to continue changing the course of action until it brings the desired results.

An enduring business is one that can see opportunity and create a series of decisive actions to set out on a path, which always starts with a single decision.

Once you nail the three ‘truths’ of Vision, Strategy and Leadership, you will see your ship begins to sail a course that is unshakeable.


2. Essence

This is the uniqueness and spirit that determines your way of operation, your business values and level of integrity.

It’s our term for your business’s heartbeat, culture and team environment that make your staff work to support you and drive growth, and your customers buy into what you’re doing.

They just love it, and they’re walking testimonials for you.

To fulfill the element of Essence, you need to get right the Culture, Experience of your staff and clients and your Communication.  If you can, you create Excitement, Emotion and Clarity.  You become something people WANT to be part of.


3. Energy

In business, Energy is all about creating a driving force that propels your business forward.

If we equate that to the human body, strategy and Endurance are like your brain. It’s the thinking hub that creates the plan and outlines how everything is going to function as the body or your business.

The Essence is like the spirit – your personal spirit or your business spirit.

The Energy is like the heart and blood. It needs to be pumped throughout the body for it to survive and do things.

To get this right, you need to get a handle on your People (both you, your staff and your clients), the Progression and models that show there is always places to move to within your business, and Performance (are you and them all doing their best)?

A business that leads itself is the ultimate asset. It frees you up for more of what you like and empowers those in your employ to continually strive to live out your goals and aspirations.



Keen to learn more on how to lead that kind of business that affords you the freedom you deserve? Grab your vey own copy of Lead-The-Ship here


About the Author

Edward is the Co-Founder and Lead Strategist at the Institute for Couples in Business. When he’s not nutting out smart strategies you’ll find him hanging out with wife and business partner Rebecca and his sons Samuel, 4, and Charles, 2. For the past seven years Ed has been working with business owners to double profits, halve hours and build self-sustaining business that thrives with or without you. Ed is also author of #1 best-seller Lead-The-Ship and a sought-after guest speaker who often gets mistaken for Prince Harry.