Do you feel like your time and energy are sapped by tasks outside your wheelhouse? The formula for success is not complicated, but it requires self-awareness and honesty.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an Olympic gymnast—and I’m still grateful for the day that dream was crushed.
Let me backtrack: my family loved the Olympics, but my mother LOVED the Olympics, and she passed that passion on to me. In my view, there wasn’t a group of stronger, more coordinated, cooler guys than the U.S. men’s gymnastics team. When I saw female gymnast Phoebe Mills stand on the podium during the 1988 Olympics and win the only American medal, the dream was born.
I practiced every day for several months at the local YMCA, until my aspirations were graciously killed by the gymnastics coach. She pointed out that I was a foot taller than my peers and suggested that I “consider basketball instead.” Basketball? How uncool. I was crushed.
It took me a while to get over the reality that I would not be an Olympic gymnast, and I did eventually take up basketball. It turned out that being a foot taller than my peers was not an insignificant advantage in that sport, and I was fairly good at it. Though a part of me always wished I could do the pommel horse, basketball paid for my college and allowed me to see the world.
But the lesson that I learned from this experience was even more valuable.
I realized that I have specific strengths that could be very profitable. Also, I have weaknesses that, even if I worked hard on them, will only produce mediocre results.
This formula applies even more directly to business and entrepreneurship. All too often, capable entrepreneurs strike out because they’re too committed to the scrappy DIY mindset. They attempt to be Jacks and Jills of all trades and end up watering down their best qualities.
Work your strengths, hire people to take care of your weaknesses, and get stuff done. Simple, right?
So why do so many entrepreneurs fail to follow through?
After flexing their talents in all sorts of crazy directions, many entrepreneurs lose sight of what they’re really good at. Others are just too stubborn to acknowledge where they come up short.
Don’t let the things you shouldn’t be doing drag your business down. Here are six questions you can ask yourself to identify your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can be decisive about unloading your most burdensome tasks.
Identify Your Strengths
- What are the areas in which you’ve found success and satisfaction? It’s not enough to be good at something. If you weren’t satisfied doing it in the past, you won’t be motivated to do it in future. Ability doesn’t count for much if you aren’t interested.
- What do others say your strengths are? The people around you usually know what you’re good at because it has benefited them. Ask them what they think your strengths are and examples of how those strengths have helped them in the past. You’ll be surprised at what they come up with.
- What do the assessments say? Assessments like Strengthsfinder and SIMA aren’t silver bullets, but they can give you new insights or affirm the things you felt to be true.
Identify Your Weaknesses
- What parts of your business are demanding the most time for the least return? Every business has its time sinks; a wise entrepreneur finds someone else to fill them. I would love to be artistic. I’m not. I once spent a whole day trying to format a newsletter. I finally broke down and hired a designer. Thirty minutes and twenty-five dollars later, I wondered why I had tortured myself for so many years.
- What tasks frustrate you the most? If some part of your business feels like an onerous chore, it’s probably a sign that you’re not that good at it (or, at the very least, follow-through is going to be a struggle). Think about your upcoming week and try to identify the tasks you are dreading.
- What responsibilities can you give away? I’ve said it before: if you can hire someone else to do it, you probably should. You’ll free up your time for higher-value tasks and come out on top.
Get stuff done
Now that you know your strengths, you should be able to identify one or two areas of your business or personal life that if you gave more time, you could improve. Take the next step and block that extra time off on your calendar. Personally, I love and am good with people. So, for an extra hour each week, I call clients, partners, and prospects to check in. I’m not doing sales, I’m building relationships. But people work with you if they trust you, so sales have always come from this time.
To make room to work your strengths, you’ll have to give something up. For small businesses and solopreneurs, consider hiring a part-time freelancer. I leave the art to my designer and, together, we get things done.
We have said it often in StartupCamp: Done is better than perfect. Hiring people to do your work is scary, even when they’re taking over the tasks you don’t like. But if you’re smart about your recruitment process and you learn to trust your people, you’ll enable them to leverage their own strengths. If we are all doing what we are good at, we’ll really get stuff done.
In the meantime, look at your life, your business, and your world, and ask yourself: are you getting stuff done—and enjoying the work along the way?