For most of us, work is a fact of life. You’ve got to pay your bills, support your family, and keep a roof over your head. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’ve got to get up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and head to the office to make things happen.
But, for ambitious entrepreneurs or small business owners, you don’t just have to work, you need to—you want to. Creating something out of nothing is your passion. You want to see your business grow and pay dividends to you, your investors, and your employees.
So, you strike out on your own. Maybe you open a shop, develop a new technology, or work as a coach, helping people to be their best. Well, pretty soon you just might find that you’re putting in even more hours at the office and spending even less time with the people you love. At that point, you need to ask yourself: “Do I really have a business…or do I have a job?”
There’s a difference, and it’s an important one.
To put it simply, if you can’t take a month off to travel to Italy (or to write the Great American Novel or do some other time-intensive activity), you’ve got a job. That means you need to be there day in and day out to keep your business running, and things can’t function without you. If, on the other hand, you’ve developed systems and hired the right people to execute the plans you’ve put in place—without you looking over their shoulders—you’ve got a business.
When I started my first company—one that I owned for 18 years—I thought I was out of the grind of a job. After all, I owned my own business, right? I could show up in jeans and a T-shirt if I wanted to, and I didn’t have a boss micromanaging my every move. But, something was missing. Sure, my company was successful, but after nine years I realized that I still had a job, not a business. My stress level was still high, and I hadn’t made myself any happier than if I had a regular job. So I made some changes, which resulted in my next nine years at that company being vastly different—and all for the better.
Do you want to make the shift from job to business and realize your dreams of independence? Here are five steps to help get you there:
You’ve got to be strategic about creating a business, and once you’ve created a plan, you need to use it. It’s best if you can define your priorities by breaking them down into daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly activities. Figure out where you are as a company right now, where you want to go, and how you want to get there.
If you think you can go it alone and not end up having a “job,” you’re mistaken. You’ve got to be intentional about surrounding yourself with great people. Use a hiring strategy to ensure you’ve got “A-players” on your team, and then make sure to provide the proper guidance and training necessary for your A-players to succeed, and work independently.
Let’s face it—you’re an entrepreneur, so you’re likely a type A personality who wants to have your finger on the pulse of everything that’s happening in your organization. Relax. Resist the temptation to micromanage your team. Warren Buffet said it best: “Hire well. Manage little.” If you’ve succeeded with steps one and two, you’ve already set your team up for success. So let them do what they do best without hovering.
As I said earlier, if you can’t take a month-long vacation, you’ve still got a “job.” Develop processes that allow your business to run without you. If you’re the only “knowledge keeper” in your company, people will constantly be coming to you with questions. Instead of holding onto knowledge, share what you’ve got and teach your employees to be problem solvers, rather than come to you for answers. They’ll realize that you trust them and will feel empowered to seek out solutions without needing your say. Once a solution is identified, document it for other employees and future training purposes.
This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Be fair and reasonable with your employees and your clients. Make sure to show up on time, and do what you say you’re going to do. You’ll reap the rewards through inspired loyalty and customer referrals. And, if you work to be the go-to resource in your field, you’ll drive the market to you.
Odds are, you’re going to have to start with a job to turn your company into a business. It won’t happen overnight. But, little by little—if you do it right—things will come together. In musical terms, think of yourself as a conductor. You’re not sitting first chair in the orchestra, and you’re not playing an instrument. Your job is to get the best players, decide who’s going to play what and how, and then let them perform the symphony. Pretty soon, you can put down the baton, listen to the music, and take that much-needed, long vacation.
This article originally appeared on AllBusiness.com.