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The founder’s dilemma: Do you want to be a king? Or do you want to be rich? That’s the topic of discussion with Susan and Marcel Krawczyk, founder of Little Jack Marketing, and podcast host/content creator. He’s been working remotely since 2010 as a digital marketing partner for 200+ businesses. His podcast, Finding 10,000 Ways, enables aspiring business leaders and industry experts to learn from the reflections of their peers’ mistakes and failures along their ongoing journey to success.

Susan and Marcel chatted about how a challenge for most small business owners is identifying how and when to remove themselves from roles that limit their capacity. Listen as they discuss the following in this episode of Finding 10,000 Ways:

  • The natural flow of the world is toward chaos, and your business is no exception.
  • Where you spend your time and focus is what will grow (so be aware).
  • Why it’s ok that no one is going to do it exactly as you do it
  • Treat your plans like a hypothesis. They’re a roadmap of where you’re going but ultimately will evolve with experience.

Please find the full video transcript below:

Marcel:  Do you want to be king or do you want to be wealthy? When you’re a king, sure, you get to call the shots, you’re in charge of everything, but there’s also a lot of burdens that come with that, right? Everything falls on your shoulders.

Susan: Definitely prioritize what are you handing off versus what are you keeping. Because if you’re keeping it and you’re still doing it, fewer people need to know about it. But when you get ready to start creating this business that runs without you, you have to have all of it written down. So that’s a good goal.

Marcel:  Who are you and what do you do?

Susan:  My name is Susan Fennema. I am the Chaos Eradicating Officer, CEO for Beyond the Chaos. We help small business owners simplify their operations and manage their projects with the goal of them being able to grow their business, focus on that, and in many cases be able to get their lives back.

Marcel:  So your title here, I think is great. The Chaos Eradicating Officer at Beyond the Chaos, where does that come from?

Susan:  When I started the business, I didn’t want to just be CEO. I mean, that’s so boring. So I actually started going out and saying, “I feel like I could tie this to the business name.” And I did some work on the thesaurus online and found I’m like, “I really like that.” So it’s chaos eradicating officers, but it’s CEO.

Marcel:  What makes you an expert or when did you cross that threshold into being an expert?

Susan:  You know, here’s the funny thing is that even when I was three, I was sorting my mother’s buttons while she sewed into size, color, I was building graphs. This was my game. But over time, working with those small businesses and really helping them put systems in place where they hadn’t even been thinking about it, it just came to me that, “I want to do this for more people. I don’t want to just do it for one at a time.”

Marcel:  What are some of the top challenges or issues that you see these small businesses dealing with?

Susan:  Many small business owners are overwhelmed. They’re worn out. They don’t know where to be spending their time. They’re reacting. So essentially they’re letting their business run them instead of them running it. And there are all sorts of symptoms of that. Overwhelm is a big one though.

Marcel:  So the first point you brought over that I thought was really interesting is simplify, streamline, and systemize everything. And I want to kick this off with a quote that I found here that I think might align. It says, “Put simply, entropy is a measure of disorder. And the second law of thermodynamics that states all closed systems tend to maximize entropy. Reversing this ever-increasing tendency toward disorder requires the input of energy. And that’s why housekeeping is so tiresome.”

Susan:  That’s a pretty good one.

Marcel:  Why is simplifying and streamlining and systemizing everything so important and such a major topic for you?

Susan:  Well, we only have so much bandwidth. You’re not just getting to do that thing that you’re like, “I am so good at this. I should go do this for a living.” In fact, you’re hardly ever getting to do that. In focusing on simplifying, streamlining, and systemizing, you’re taking all the thought that you need to put into repeatable things. You have a checklist or a template to just run down and say, “Oh yeah, the last time as a small business owner that I brought a subcontractor on, these are the steps I followed.” I can just follow them again because I systemize that.

And if you’re not keeping track of those things, then how do you know if you did them well or not? Did that contractor not work out because you forgot to ask a question, that now you can add to your list for next time so you don’t forget and have that same mistake? So it also makes continuing to streamline and simplify possible if you’re doing that. And this applies to everything from what you’re selling to how you’re communicating to how you’re running your day-to-day business.

Marcel:  What I find so interesting in just about the concept of creating these habits inside of these systems is we might do it in one spot of our life or one spot of the business. But for some reason, there’s always this disconnect where we forgot we should also do it here or just be more consistent with applying it.

Susan:  I find that I have very detailed, clear systems for my VA. I mean, they’re very straightforward and she can just go down the list and it’s no big deal. She doesn’t have questions. It’s great. But when it comes to my sales process, I know all the steps, but I haven’t written them down. That is definitely something on my list to get written down.

Definitely prioritize what are you handing off versus what are you keeping? Because if you’re keeping it and you’re still doing it, fewer people need to know about it. But when you get ready to start creating this business that runs without you, you have to have all of it written down. So that’s a good goal.

Marcel:  I almost feel like sometimes as business owners we’re afraid. It’s like there’s only a capacity for one thing. It’s like do you want to micromanage everything or do you actually want to grow the business and make money? So as you grow, it’s all about capacity. You only have a limited amount of time to do stuff, meaning that you can only do a few select things.

Susan:  Give away the things you don’t like to do. So many small business owners hate the finances. Well, get a bookkeeper. But until you tell that bookkeeper exactly what your expectation is, there’s no way they can meet them. So you have to be able to communicate that in writing something that they can look back at.

A quick way to do it is you can record a video. Just pop open your Zoom and record a video of you doing it.  But know that those are harder to edit if something changes down the road versus something written.

Marcel:  But it can also be a stepping stone just to get it out. It could be a prototype, right? Just get it out there first, go ahead, and document it. And then it gives you time to go back and document that video and put it into paper or different formats.

Quick point. I was talking to another business advisor and they had mentioned a tough conversation they have all the time with businesses. They’re like, “Oh, but I like doing this thing.” If they’re creative, they like doing the creative side. It’s like just going through that process. What parts do you actually want to focus on and then build the business around that?

Susan:  Absolutely. I have a colleague who is a software developer and he loves developing software. He does not want to let that go. But if you’re the business owner and you’re working on a deadline, that’s a problem because you get pulled off. So he set it up perfectly. He works on product only. He does not work on custom development for clients. You can make it happen, but you have to plan away and systemize a way to make it happen.

Marcel:  When you have these systems it lets you be a little more objective when you reflect on the time, lets you improve the process. So the more systems and things you have in place or even if it’s just a framework or a structure, you can go back to it and say, “It’s because I’m spending too much time here or too much time there. And is that what I really want to be doing or should I be doing it?” And you can start being a lot more objective with your time management then.

Susan:  Get a project manager involved. Natural instincts or I also find a lot of small business owners have a little bit of that ADHD. “Oh, look, a squirrel.”

Marcel:  Yeah. New idea. Yeah, yeah.

Susan:  New idea. Let’s go run halfway down that path and not finish it just like we did on all the others, right? And a good project manager can come in and be the implementer to your idea too. Great idea, I can take it from here and actually get your idea to life.

Marcel:  We have that opportunity to keep it simple, but we always make things complicated. So why do you think it’s such a challenge for us to stay focused?

Susan:  I think that there’s a big thing about being a business owner that it’s not just about a job or serving clients. It’s that you want to create something. Implementing and checking things off a list, which is my favorite thing to do is not most small business owners’ favorite thing to do.

Let’s go make a calendar block in a week for me to sit for two hours and just think about that. And that gives you that way out of you’re not eliminating that creative energy, but you’re systemizing it into a way that works.

Marcel:  What you’re saying is essentially you’re changing behavior. And I think that’s one of the things too is whenever you’re changing any behavior and trying to create new systems is accountability and just trying to stay focused. And also realized that it’s going to be hard, right? Because you’re doing something different and usually that involves learning something new. So there’s a lot of challenges and I think that’s where sometimes business owners get frustrated because it’s like they want to move fast. They want to get this stuff done.

They think that this one next milestone is the end when really, no, that’s only the beginning because now you have to create the system. You have to do it consistently over time. And so I think so often it’s that we aren’t realizing how big of a challenge we’re biting off here like essentially you have to address it like you would anything else that’s going to be hard or difficult or challenging.

Susan:  One thing, you should get your vision straight first. What is the goal of your business, right? Do you want to be a consultant day in, day out, always working directly with clients? That’s great. That’s a different plan. If you want to be a business owner who is able to go on vacation for two weeks after all this hard work you’ve put in, how do you leave?

So all those things that you do every day somebody’s got to do or they have to not be done while you’re gone. And so if you can think of it from that perspective, every time you’re doing something, is this something somebody else could do for me? How would I tell them what to do?

Marcel:  So to me building the systems I see as creating. So now the drawback though is I know that the system doesn’t inherently drive immediate value or return. It’s more of a long-term plan to grow and scale the business to increase capacity. Do you think that there is some disconnect there where business owners are like, “Man, I’m building this plan, but it’s not getting sales today?  Or it’s not doing this thing today?” So they have a hard time sitting down to actually build this system or to document their process.

Susan:  It could improve productivity for the team that you already have if your processes are cleaner. If they know what those expectations are, that could actually bring a pretty quick ROI if they are not struggling with figuring everything out every single time they do it. And waiting on you every time to answer a question. If you can get all of that stuff out of your head, you’re going to watch your team improve. And now you’re able to stop being interrupted with their questions all day and now you’re onto creating something new.

Marcel:  Carving out that time to improve leadership, whether that’s their own skill, their processes, the structures, that takes time and that requires time and attention if you want to improve it just like if you’re improving anything else, where you focus your energy is what gets better.

Susan:  Put a block on your calendar. It doesn’t have to be every day. Two days a week for two hours to work on your business and nobody interferes with that. That’s your time. And don’t do it at the end of the day. Because at the end of the day, you’ll come up with 100 excuses not to do it.

Marcel:  I think it was from Atomic Habits, but I think it was a Mark Twain quote where he’s like, “Eat the frog at the beginning of the day.” Just get it out of the way like you get those things done and then move on.

Susan:  Right. If you’ve eaten a frog, the rest is downhill.

Marcel:  Yeah, yeah. Because I know so many people want to just keep things simple from the start and they think it’s going to be simple. And it’s like, “If we just stay here, that’d be great.” I guess what are some of those factors or I guess human behaviors that start to pull us into that direction of chaos?

Susan:  You know, that’s actually just how the world works. I mean, if you leave a house with nothing in it unattended for four months, you’re going to come back and it’s covered with dust and you might have creatures living in it. So things tend towards chaos, they tend towards messy. It takes effort to keep it out.

Marcel:  And they’re simple systems to use too. I think it’s Jefferson’s Prioritization Matrix, where part of it is urgency or timing versus impact and then trying to balance the two.

Susan:  And you want to make sure too that if you’re always working in an emergent important quadrant if you’re always working there you’re going to burn out. Cannot work always there. So you want to work in that it’s important, but it’s not urgent. So what else can you push to that block? Mitigating interruptions is a big deal to me. If you are working in a nice structure and you have a plan for your day and somebody interrupts your plan, you need to figure out how important that interruption is.

Marcel:  Well, I think that’s where you were mentioning block scheduling is so critical and helps hold you accountable between phone calls, Slack, email, these are all things that can easily interrupt what you’re doing. And as soon as that interrupts your flow in your focus, what you’re trying to get done won’t happen.

Susan:  And I will tell you, I’ve had days where I’m like, “Oh, look, that day doesn’t have anything on it. That’s great. I’ll get so much done.” Okay and then no, you just let the day lead you around. “Oh, look, I got an email. I guess I should do that.” Now you’re really driving yourself of what are those important things that I’m focusing on that I want to get done as opposed to letting the business drive me, I’m driving the business.

Well, and I think a lot of small business owners feel like, “Well, I don’t want to do all that big corporate bureaucracy stuff. I just want to do my thing.” Well, setting the structure also sets you free to do your thing. And that’s what is important to remember is that if you want to accomplish a big thing, you have to do all those little things that make that up. And so putting that structure around it lets you actually accomplish as opposed to meandering.

Marcel:  How often do you see businesses or even yourself go in this situation where you’re handling all of your stuff and you put it in your calendar and you’re like, “Okay, everything’s accounted for.” And then you start going through Monday and you’re like, “All right, one thing carries over.” Now Tuesday like, “Oh crap. Now two things are carrying over.”

Now you get to Friday and let’s say you have a whole bunch of stuff that carried over. We’re talking about things that become a priority A. Now everything feels like it’s priority A. So like where do you go from there? When now all of a sudden it seems like everything like your whole plan just went to crap. And you’re like, “Now what do I do?”

Susan:  In those cases, I say just like I would with a project, it is time to write a change order for yourself. Stop and look at what has changed. Assess if the priorities are now different. And, reschedule what you can reschedule just like you would if you were running a project and now you’re going to feel a lot better. I guarantee you once you start to feel that overwhelmed, that minute where you’re like, “…What is going to happen?” That stress and everybody knows it, everybody’s had it. The second you feel that, stop. Go back to your plan, go back to your list because that’s where you’re getting off track.

Marcel:  When you’re in that reactionary state-

Susan:  You can’t think.

Marcel:  No, you can’t think. You feel overwhelmed. It’s harder to think clearly of what needs to come next. Because I think that’s when very often we start to fall into these multitasking type situations. When we’re multitasking, our quality goes down, our productivity goes down. So we’re just jumping around and trying to do one little thing at a time instead of just getting the one item done that needs to get done.

Going from the business owner that does everything to as your team grows, it becomes really harder to stop and get that stuff out of your head. Sure, in your mind map, everything connects and makes sense.

But now you have to actually start putting that down on paper. It might not be as free form as it is in your head, but we have to be able to articulate that to someone else. Make sure that they understand and can follow through with it because once you can get that stuff out of your head, it frees up so much space. And to your point, that’s where you can become more productive. Because now you can get more done with your time because you have a team of people that help you out.

Susan:  The other thing to remember as you’re doing this, nobody’s going to do it exactly as fast or exactly as perfect as you did it. It is going to be different. The goal is that you want the result to be met. And also if you’re looking at it from that perspective too, you’re also going to have better team members because they’re going to respect the fact that you’re like, “Yep, that’s on me or we didn’t write the process better or, oh, this should probably be in there. So can you go update it?”

They’re going to respect that they’re not being blamed for things that they don’t know. How would they know? You as the business owner have been doing this by habit in your brain for years. How would this brand new person know?

Marcel:  Issues that all business owners deal with is that at the end of the day it’s your business. Meaning that it’s your leadership. It’s usually your actions, decisions, and behavior that are affecting everyone around you. So you’re the common denominator. If someone on your team isn’t performing well, sure, it could be someone that’s just not a right fit for the business. But more than likely it has to do with leadership and what you were accountable for in that situation.

Susan:  And a great way to measure that is do you feel that about all your team or is it a specific person? Because if it’s all your team, it’s probably you. If it’s a specific person, it might just be that.

Marcel:  I’d say one of my early experiences with leading was when I learned that when you do have someone that’s just not a good fit, one of the things that you also have accountability for is either focusing more time and energy to bring that person up to where you need them to be or making the decision to part ways. And are you carrying this bad situation? Not saying that the person’s bad, but carrying the bad situation along further than it should be.

Susan:  And how does that affect the rest of your team? So if you’re spending 80% of your time trying to help a poor performing employee along, so the other people are only getting 20% of your time and they’re the good ones that are doing great work. I find I have to go and follow my own system because even though I might have it in my head or remember how to do it. If I skip a step, it throws the rest of the team off.

And if I don’t follow my own system, then they don’t have to follow my own system. Now, why have it? So you’re setting that tone. And if you permit people on your team to do whatever they want and not follow your process or system, everybody else is going to say, “Well, they don’t have to do it. Why do I have to do it? Even if they don’t say it out loud.

Marcel:  That’s actually a really good point in the sense that I was having a conversation about someone about how do you lead by example in a digital age and stuff like that, right? If they know that you’re not following all of the steps or you’re not doing the same thing, that’s that goes into leading by example. And if you’re not doing it, then, like you said, you’re giving them permission to not do it also.

Now, now that you have your business and it sounds like you have a real clear vision and focus on it. Tell me about how you got here. What was that first big failure you experienced?

Susan:  Well, when I first started my business, I had the exciting how awesome this is going to be the outlook. I immediately lucked into this client who, “Hey, I need 30 to 40 hours a week of your time” and I’m going, “Who knew? This is great.” We set up a retainer. One thing I learned first is now you have blocked all of your time.

I took a full-time job. I did not get a client. So not the same thing. And it turns out he’s literally a sociopath literally. I’m not kidding. Worst, most awful interactions I’ve ever had with a person. I was told constantly, “I don’t even know why you call yourself a project manager.” I don’t know because I’ve done it for 30 years. I went back to my contractor. It was like, “Okay, how do I stop this because I can’t keep doing this?”

I’ve worked for small business owners my whole life. So the last of my employers had some great exit strategies in his proposals. So I had put one in there. And so I was able to come back and say, “We agreed that we could say it’s not working. And there’s a two-week exit strategy and I’m giving you that two weeks notice.”

I learned exactly what I wanted my business not to be. My first instinct was, “I don’t ever want employees. I just want it to be simple. I want me working with my clients.” And right off the bat that’s not going to work unless you want to be tied to it like a job. Now you’re just a contractor working for people.

Marcel:  Yeah. It’s funny that you mentioned that you go start your business thinking that it’s going to be like this level of freedom and you make your own calls. And I mean, I’ve definitely been there quite a few times where I was like I feel like I went into this to have freedom, but ultimately I’ve built my own prison. And I was like, “How and when did this happen?” Do you want to be king or do you want to be wealthy? When you’re a king, sure, you get to call the shots, you’re in charge of everything. But there’s also a lot of burdens that comes with that, right? Everything falls on your shoulders.

Where if you’re looking at it, “Hey, I want to be wealthy. I don’t care about some of the stuff in-between the details. But that means we’re going to need a system, we’re going to have to increase capacity or you need more productivity. And whoever makes those decisions is fine with me as long as I’m becoming wealthy. That’s the ultimate goal is the goal is to become wealthy. How do we do that?

So what’s the one piece of advice that you’d give someone who is watching or that you’d hope they take away from this conversation?

Susan:  Sure. So I’m going to share a quote from Dwight Eisenhower that relates to this. “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” If you spend the time planning, the plans can go out the window. You now know, “Okay, I understand why we set it up that way and I understand what’s involved. So now I know how to adapt. I know how to respond to the emergency or the lack of time or whatever it may be.” And so that’s my tip-off of this is use your calendar as a tool, block your time. Planning your time even if it changes. That has great value.

Marcel:  I love that you said that because the one thing I’ve been repeating this whole year because it’s been such a reflection year for me has been to treat your plans like a hypothesis, right? So it gives you some guidance, but there’s a good chance it’ll just all go somewhere. A lot of times those plans are based on assumptions, they’re based on misinformation or things you don’t necessarily have yet, but you still need to have a vision. You need to have something to direct your behavior and your actions of where you’re going. And then you use the information you get to take it back, revise the plan, revise the hypothesis and then take your next steps.

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