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Use this powerful three-step process to create a self-driving business

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Rem Oculee is the founder and CEO of 9Q Ventures and trust asset management. He also wrote the best-selling book, The Exit Mindset.

Let me ask you a question: As a CEO, is your company a standalone company? In other words, could you leave your organization for three or four months, confident that it would continue to grow and scale seamlessly during your absence?

If you are like many business leaders, your answer to this question is a resounding no. It’s impossible to leave your company for a month, let alone four. You may not even be able to go a week without a negative impact. There are far too many crises that happen every day – far too many fires that require your personal attention to put out.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of; this is common in many organizations. However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s the best way to run your business. Indeed, all the time you spend solving problems is time you can’t spend on more important things like growing and scaling. Moreover, you increase the risk of burnout when your time is spent on crisis management.

That’s the bad news. But there’s also good news: by implementing three simple yet powerful steps (which I’ll explain to you here), you can transform your organization into an organization that almost runs itself.

When your business is on autopilot, you reduce the number of problems you have to solve every day. Yes, there will still be problems, but your organization will experience much greater stress-free growth and you will regain the time and energy that was missing for so long.

1. Focus on the big picture.

Far too many business leaders focus on tactics rather than strategy. In other words, they pay attention to the details that come up every day instead of thinking in terms of the big picture. Unfortunately, this will wreck your ability to create and sustain a self-governing business.

If you don’t focus on the big picture, you risk creating unintended problems every time you try to solve a challenge. When that happens, you’ll have to scramble to clear up the chaos you inadvertently caused.

For example, suppose you have a production problem. You solve it, but that creates a new problem: you don’t have enough salespeople to handle the increased production. Now you have excess inventory lying around, leading to cash flow problems.

Did you foresee any of these problems when you tackled the production problem? No. Because you didn’t step back and consider the big picture, you didn’t set up a process from the start to address the manufacturing problem and the problems that would arise in repairing it.

2. Adopt an exit mindset.

To avoid this mistake, you must constantly pretend to leave the company. How do you do that? By adopting what I call the ‘exit mindset’. In other words, you should get into the habit of thinking about whether someone you sold the business to could run it successfully from the moment they took over.

If the answer is no, start thinking about how you can change that. Often the key is to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that allow anyone to get in and run the business. You also need to create SOPs that allow anyone to come in and handle any task in any department.

When you adopt an exit mindset, you automatically begin to put procedures in place that support your business to become a self-governing organization. That means anyone (including you) can leave without negatively impacting the business because there are processes in place through which someone else can seamlessly step in and do that work.

When you create SOPs, you also ensure that your entire company does not have to look to you to solve every problem because everything is documented. People have the tools and knowledge they need to do their job, even if your attention is elsewhere.

3. Get the right people.

The final step in building a self-directed business comes down to people. You need enough people — and the right people — to do the jobs that need to be done.

Please understand: I’m certainly not saying you need 20, 30, or 40 (or more) people. With the right mindset and the right SOPs, you could only have one or two people. The point is not to add people casually; the point is to think carefully about your needs, look at your processes and make an informed decision about how many people are needed to perform the necessary tasks with maximum efficiency.

You should also ensure that there are procedures in place to ensure that the people you engage communicate openly and appropriately with each other. In this way, everyone works together smoothly to achieve the desired end result.

Keep in mind that taking this step will greatly minimize the problems. It also means that even if you leave the company (temporarily or permanently), everything will continue to run smoothly. That’s the beauty of creating a self-directed business.

Come back to the process.

At the end of the day, this three-step process will enable your organization to practically run itself. But as I mentioned at the outset, no real-world business is ever going to be 100% hassle-free — and that’s okay.

It does not matter whether your company is a sole proprietorship or a large organization. As long as you keep coming back to these steps, you will continue to refine your business and move closer to the ultimate goal of operating on autopilot.

So when you’ve had enough of the pain of constantly trying to put out an endless series of fires, it’s time to make a decision. Decide today that what you have now is unacceptable. Decide today that you are going to set up a self-directed business. Then take the steps I’ve outlined here, and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to achieving that goal.


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