5 Reasons why being a Hero is killing your business

Photo by Eneas

Are you a hero in your business?  Are you out there applying your super heroic selling skills, delivery abilities or micromanagement ‘gifts’ in order for your business to thrive (or survive)?

Do you take special pride in your ability to fight the fires and the chaos that surrounds your day to day operations?  Are you especially proud of your creative way to get things done right at the last minute – knowing you are the only one that could pull off delivering the customer’s expected results…or that you were the only one that could close the deal.

If this describes you or maybe one of your key employees, then you are slowly killing your business, headed down a path that far too many businesses end up on.

Here are 5 reasons why you need to stop being the Hero for your business!

Why you can’t afford to be a Hero in your business

Reason #1 – it’s not sustainable

As the Hero in your business, you’re working long hours and all of the important stuff must go through you.  But what happens when you’ve kept up that pace for 2 or 3 years and you come down with a nasty flu…or you fall off a ladder…or you get hit by the proverbial bus.

If you’re really the Hero and the only one that can get things done, then your business is going to shut down when you’re not there.  And there will come a time when you’re not available…it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.  You might be able to have things come to a halt for a few weeks, but what about the next time?

Reason #2 – it’s not scalable

It’s a sad and unfortunate truth that there are only so many hours in the day – even for the Hero.  When you first start out, 10 or 12 hours a day might be enough for you generate a good revenue stream.  Things are going well – you’ve got a good reputation and your heroics are making your customers happy.  You’ve got some opportunities to grow!

So you start working longer hours, weekends become a great opportunity to work even more just to keep the growth going.  You hire some extra help, but they can’t do what you can do and just cause you to work even more to make up for their lack of not being you.  But there’s only 24 hours in the day – at some point, even if you don’t break down or snap, you will literally run out of time and be unable to grow any more.

Reason #3 – It’s not transferable

One of the biggest reasons to own a business is that not only do you have a chance to generate income, but you also have the opportunity to build up equity in the business that you can take advantage of when you sell down the road.

As the Hero, you are responsible for generating most of the revenue in the business…but when you sell the business,  you’re not going with it, and without a Hero to plug in, the business isn’t going to generate much revenue…which means it’s not worth much.  In some more extreme cases, the business may not be worth anything without you – the Hero.

Reason #4 – It’s not consistent

You can only be in one place at any one time, but it’s pretty likely that you have more than one customer.  And even though you are driving all of the key decisions, it’s pretty likely that others will have to be involved, which means that they will do things differently than you will.

Even if that’s not the case, as the Hero your best weapon is your ability to creatively freelance solutions.  That means that you’re delivering things differently every time and while variety is the spice of life, your customers have expectations on your consistent delivery in all aspects of your business.  Whether it’s you or your employees that are creatively coming up with new ways to do things, you’re not going to be consistent and that will cause problems.

Reason #5 – It’s not fun

As much as you might celebrate your heroic efforts, it won’t take too long before the long hours, really hard work that never seems to end and the constant pressure of having to do everything yourself is going to wear you down.

It’s fun to deliver a great product (or service), make money and have lots of time to strategically guide your business and take time off.  It’s not fun to constantly be on call, fighting fires and never having a chance to take a deep breath.

What’s the alternative to being the Hero?

I’ll cover it in more detail in future posts, but the baseline alternative is implementing systems and procedures for all aspects of your business.  Working hard (up front and one time) to make sure that your products or services are delivered with minimal input from you as the owner.

So are you being a Hero in your business?  Are you convinced that you need to stop being the Hero?  Share your thoughts below – I’d love to hear whether you’ve spotted any Heroes lately.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

15 thoughts on “5 Reasons why being a Hero is killing your business”

  1. Tobin Truog says:

    Great post Shawn!

    How many times, as an “outsider”, have we taken a look at a company and immediately seen that the Hero is who is holding things back?

    How about the SuperHero who actually sets up the system, and then when things get busy they just revert to their old ways? I think I've been there on that one!

    In the book, “Leadership is an Art”, the author talks about the idea that a leader must view the people who work for him / her as volunteers. Money, while a motivator at first, will not sustain a person if the work situation is terrible.

    The Art of the leadership thing is to “give yourself over to the limitations of the people who work for you.” Sometimes, the outcome is greater than what you would do.

  2. skinkade says:

    Toby – thanks for the comment.

    You touched on a great point – a lot of times, the result (although not the way you would have done) will end up being better than what you could have done under your own heroic efforts anyway.

  3. Kevin Taylor says:

    Nice post. Thanks for the reminder.

    Heros tend to build jobs for themselves instead of building sustainable businesses. It is the classic Technician mentality a la Gerber.

    If you are okay with with just a job and love the adrenaline highs of being a hero, more power to you. But, that will not lead to a remarkable and sustainable business.

    My businesses are both in technology and we tend to see heros amongst the developers also. I try very hard to prevent a hero mentality from infiltrating our project teams. Pulling all nighters to make a deadline is not behavior to reward. All nighters point to a failure in management.

  4. skinkade says:

    Kevin – that's a great point about recognizing the management failure.

    Sadly many corporate environments (at least many that I saw during my consulting and corporate days) encouraged that kind of heroic mentality – take one for the team, everything is a life or death issue, etc. However those are the same environments that struggle to keep talented people in the long run and generally churn out poor work as well!

  5. The above scenario certainly describes how I previously ran my business. After 11 years and a major case of “burn out” I walked away with no long term financial benefit to show for all the effort. In rebuilding the business this time, I am ready to do things differently. Stay tuned, it is a work in progress.

  6. skinkade says:

    Mary Kay – I think you really summarized the biggest risk. Walking away without any opportunity to be able cash in as a longer term play.

    Thanks for the comment!

  7. Dan Troxel says:

    Hi Shawn great to see you at the core advocates event and all the other events we attend. If you remember you ask me about my sales force for my bussiness about a year ago. I responded its me whats wrong with that you said nothing if your not planing on growing. This year I've thought about your question alot and have been taking steps to let go of as much control and Hero thinking little by little it starting to work. Please keep asking questions to small bussiness people like me they just might remember an act on it. Thanks Dan Lights and Design by Dan.

  8. skinkade says:

    Dan,

    Thanks for the great comment – I'm glad to hear that stuck with you. It can be a tough habit to break when you're used to doing it all yourself, but you will hit that wall if you can't change!

    Shawn

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