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How Harry took back his life

A life consumed exclusively by your business is not a life worth living.

Let me tell you about Harry.

Harry was a deeply spiritual man. He wanted to have the time to be involved with his church’s philanthropic efforts, and he yearned to give what he could to create a better world and set an example for his young daughters—but there was literally no time.

His commercial interior construction business was costing him his life’s dreams. Every day was a workday, with construction most often scheduled for evenings and weekends. 12-hour days were typical, and during the usual five-day workweek he prepared bids (estimates for jobs in process) and handled project management.

He left his young family early in the day and didn’t return home until after they’d gone to bed. There was no time, and that meant no family life. He yearned for the simple day-to-day connections he was missing: taking the girls to school, picking them up, doing homework with them, or camping on weekends. His life was passing him by—a churning blur of repetitive tasks with no escape.

Sometimes he daydreamed about selling the business, getting free, and walking away with a pocketful of money; but with every operation in the business dependent solely on him and no one willing to pay for his sweat equity, it was a futile dream.

Sometimes he would ponder the fulfillment he got when he worked with his clients: offering professional insights that the client had never considered, saving them time or money, and experiencing their gratitude. It was the best feeling, and Harry wanted to feel more of that connection and the appreciation his clients had for his work.

Harry was a caring man who longed to create an extended family of employees he could mentor and who would in turn help him run the business. He dreamed of a business that was a team, with him as its captain. He wanted a team culture in which everyone worked collaboratively, brainstorming new ideas, implementing and measuring the results, and striving toward shared goals and expectations. This team would run the business from day to day, using systems to create consistent results.

Instead, he was up until the wee hours slogging through paperwork to churn out meaningless bids on projects he secretly hoped not to win because he didn’t have a staff to coordinate them. Winning bids only meant increasing the burden of work Harry would be responsible for. His work took on a routine sense of obligation to fulfill prospects’ expectations of just bidding, rather than producing the quality work Harry was capable of. If only he had a team! He wasn’t leading a business he loved; he was enduring an empty, hollow existence as a solopreneur.

But Harry had a deep-seated reason for resisting handing off work, even though he needed and wanted to do so.

Years ago, Harry had had an employee—a very likeable, competent, and capable young man named Stephen. Stephen asked questions and quickly learned everything Harry taught him about the business. He seemed too good to be true.

And he was.

Stephen ingratiated himself with Harry’s clients, and, under the table, he started working with them directly rather than through the company. A loyal and longtime client alerted Harry to Stephen’s overtures. Harry was devastated that his trust in Stephen had been misplaced. Heartbreak gave way to anger. He fired Stephen and re-connected with his clients and vendors to reassure them that Harry would once again be their only contact. Harry was back to square one: more work, less time, and less life.

When Harry came to me, he was fed up with himself and his fear. Being burned had made him unable to give up any control, yet doing it all was no longer an option. He knew something had to change; he knew he had to change.

Harry had learned his lesson from the Stephen episode, and he wanted things to be different this time. He wanted to intentionally create a culture of loyalty and trust in his business, and to staff it with ethical individuals who worked as a team.

We formulated a path to lead Harry toward more life for himself, his family, and his business. The EMyth path forward is to identify what’s missing and create systems that fulfill expectations while also reducing fear that the business will “fall apart without you”—in Harry’s case, that meant protecting him as much as possible from rogue staffers. With this in mind, he created written position agreements that clarified his desired results for each position and what the accountabilities were. He described the outcomes expected of each position as well as the daily tasks to achieve those results. The position agreements also described the company standards—a code of conduct for everyone to follow.

This gave Harry the peace of mind he sought. He would be hiring for loyalty, trustworthiness, and ethical representation of his company, and he now had a written framework on which to base his selection process. From the position agreements, he created a series of benchmarks for screening qualified applicants, evaluating them objectively, and making informed hiring decisions. He also developed position-specific interview questions and selection criteria.

Using these tools, Harry was able to confidently bring on a team he could trust. He hired individuals who shared his vision and successfully created the culture he had dreamed of: a team of individuals with the right attitudes and ethics who would be faithful representatives of his brand.

Now, an official Estimator was busy bidding on projects that Harry (and his team) actually wanted to win.

He periodically met with his clients over a cup of coffee to discuss jobs in progress and assess their satisfaction—both with the work, and with the professionalism of his team. These friendly meetings often led to referrals and new jobs, which his company could now accommodate. Harry discovered something about himself, too: He’d always seen himself as a shy man, but when he reached out and connected, he glowed.

Finally, Harry began to see time in his schedule again. And he made the most of it.

He spent his weekends camping with his young daughters. He took his family on a pilgrimage where they assisted his cousin, a dentist, in treating children at an orphanage. His daughters grew in their compassion and commitment to being of service to others. Harry felt whole for the first time since he’d started his business. He had created the balance he craved between work and life, leading both his family and his employees by example. Most of all, he had taken control of his life—and his happiness—again.

Want to take the first step toward taking back your life as a business owner? Attend our next FREE virtual EMyth Masterclass!

Lynn Goza

Written by Lynn Goza

Lynn is an EMyth Coach, and Mentor. Her passion is coaching smart, talented, and engaged entrepreneurs who are committed to their success by focusing on learning and accountability. Together she and her clients discover opportunities and break through barriers to create the life that fulfills them. Learn more about Lynn or schedule a free session with her.