Starting small isn’t a bad thing. You have to start somewhere, and small is often the most logical way. It’s also where I focused my attention when venturing into real estate. I’d look at two- to three-unit buildings (typically apartments) in an attempt to add properties to the portfolio — and that’s just what I did.
Then, the realization hit: It takes the same amount of time to look at a two-unit place as it does to look at a 25-unit place. Still, the only hurdle was funds. If I could figure out that aspect, I could scale much faster. It would also take fewer hours on my end, which could free up time for me to work on other business opportunities.
It might sound redundant, but entrepreneurs must think about the bigger “big picture” when it comes to starting their own business. Is the goal to replace one 40-hour a week job with another? Or is it something more? Sure, you might own that job — but there are only so many hours in a day, so you limit your ability to scale when you keep your aspirations small.
“Look at things as they can be, not as they are.” – David J. Schwartz
Getting Over Yourself
I met with a contractor recently. He has a great business, a good reputation, and a solid customer base. He’s also a highly skilled tradesman when it comes to tiling. When I suggested that he might want to add other people to his team, he bristled. Even after I explained his potential to make more money (or the same money, just with fewer hours in the day) by adding someone to the team, the idea just didn’t appeal to his sensibilities.
For him, as is the case with many small business owners, sole proprietorship meant being busy: If you’re not extremely busy in your business, you’re not doing it right. You’re not successful. And understandably, it’s easy to equate more hours of work as being more productive, but that’s not the truth. Although this contractor is very successful, he has no systems in place should he want — or need — to take a step back. That’s a problem.
On the flip side, a good friend of mine got into consulting after growing tired of working 50, 60, or 70 hours a week for someone else. He decided to devote his expertise to his own business. But instead of working on his own, my friend built a team. And that team became his consulting firm.
Eventually, he was able to spend less and less time as a consultant. Sixty hours turned to 50, and 50 turned to 40. Today, he still has the same ability to pick and choose what work he takes on, but he also has other people who charge billable hours, of which he gets a percentage. He’s scaling his business. And should he want or need to take a step back, he already has systems in place to easily add more members to the team.
If you don’t think bigger and picture your end goal, consider yourself stuck. You might even find yourself driving harder than necessary just to keep the business afloat. You’re not limited to this small business you’ve carved out for yourself — you have the potential to be so much more.
I could’ve easily continued buying cheap two- to three-unit buildings that were spread out across the community. I loved it, honestly. But when I was driving all over town to collect rent from those two- to three-unit buildings, I realized no systems were in place to do something so simple for future iterations. The time I spent collecting rent could’ve been better spent buying other units — bigger units, I should add.
Taking a Bigger Leap
It’s human nature to think about ourselves, and that can be difficult to shake when you’re starting a business. In the beginning, the focus is on ensuring a job for yourself. Once that’s accomplished, resist the urge to consider your work done. The timing is right to start thinking bigger. You can start by directing your attention toward the following places:
Make a conscious decision to think big
Thinking big is a choice. You can choose to be the next Bill Gates or someone who is completely happy doing a job solo with no helping hands. If you want to grow a business into more than simply a one-person shop, adopt a bigger mindset. Get to work on developing and implementing processes for actual growth rather than maintaining the status quo.
“If you think small, your world will be small. If you think big, your world will be big.” — Paulo Coelho
Get serious about processes
Consistent processes help people think bigger. But these processes aren’t meant to add more work to your schedule; their purpose is to add people to your team and lessen your workload. You can’t grow a business if all your attention is on operations. Outsource tasks that fall into accounting, marketing, graphic design, and scheduling — these can all be handled by other people.
Stop playing the hero
Remember those people you’re adding to the team? Whether you bring on an office manager, accountant, or social media consultant, let that person do his or her job. It’s not a big deal if things diverge from your standard practices. Everyone does things differently, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s often encouraged. As long as a process is completed successfully, how a person arrives at that end point shouldn’t matter.
Thinking small is where most sole proprietors start. It’s their first venture into something entirely different, and that small step is actually a big step to take. But once you get your footing (and get into a rhythm with this new business), it’s a disservice to not at least consider what else is out there. The potential can be big.