Business owners are used to wearing many hats. In a single day, we can switch from admin assistant to CEO, tech support, marketer, customer service, head of finance… the list is endless. But in amongst all this hat-switching, it’s important to find time to step back and work on your business rather than in your business. 

Three critical factors are required to free yourself from this vicious cycle: learning to say no, getting great at delegating, and playing to your (and your team’s) strengths. If you can learn to do all three successfully, you’ll be well on your way to a stronger, more sustainable business. 

Learning to say no

As a business owner, saying yes is the easiest thing in the world. Yes to more clients, yes to more revenue, yes to working more hours than planned, yes to working seven days per week, yes to every new marketing idea. Yes to everything!

Over time, though, a never-ending parade of ‘yes’ is nothing more than a fast track to exhaustion, burnout, and working far too many hours. That’s why, as business owners, we need to learn to say no. Whether it’s saying no to a new client, a new supplier, or a new opportunity, it’s important to recognise what’s actually worth saying yes to, and what’s a distraction. 

Saying no has some clear business benefits, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to do – especially if you’re used to being a ‘yes’ person. In order to make ‘no’ feel more natural, practice explaining why you’re saying no in a positive way. You can turn a no into a positive by sharing what you are brilliant at. Explain why the opportunity or idea doesn’t fit into your core strengths, rather than focusing on all the things you won’t do. 

Tap into your strengths

According to Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, only 17 percent of the workforce believes they use all of their strengths on the job. That means more than four in five people in your business have potential assets up their sleeves that are being under-utilised. 

Do you have a team member with a love for event management, but they are always too busy prioritising other things? Why not put their true passion to use with a PR-generating event that could bring in tonnes of new clients for your business. What about that team member with an untapped creative streak? A six-month-long data analysis project filled with spreadsheets and endless admin probably isn’t the best way to go. 

Tapping into your team’s strengths goes hand in hand with learning to say no, because by saying no to the work that doesn’t fit with the strengths of your team, you’ll make room for their untapped skills to shine. Empower your team to say no, and they’ll have the space and clarity to make full use of their strengths. 

Get great at delegating

Delegating is a key skill for any business leader, and once you’ve discovered your team’s true strengths, it’ll be easy to allocate them the jobs that they’ll actually enjoy. 

If someone can do a task as well or better than you, consider if you can give it to another member of your team or even outsource it to an external operator. Often, you’ll find that you make more money than you save by trying to take it on yourself.

The key is to diversify the strengths and passion across your team. I love that my team members are better than me at some tasks. By delegating and learning to say no, the bulk of my time is spent on what I am best at, and the same goes for my team. 

Here’s a quick method to prove exactly which tasks should be delegated. First, work out the value of the task or what the end result is worth. e.g. $10/hr activities are those things I could pay someone $10/hr to do. On the other hand, $100,000 activities are those things that will unlock major and sustained revenue and profit uplifts in my business. When seen through this lens, it’s easy to figure out which tasks demand the most attention – and which should be delegated. 

Remember that delegation is essential for creating a healthy, independent work culture. You can only build trust in your team by trusting them with tasks in the first place. If you never delegate, then you’ll never feel confident that they can handle it. 

Saying no, finding your strengths, and delegating are tools that feed into each other. By implementing all three into your business, you’ll create more time, less stress, and most importantly, headspace to plan your next move.