If you’re a solopreneur or a small business owner, there is an expectation that you’ll automatically want to also be CEO. Sometimes you don’t want to, though. Sometimes doing the frontline work is what you love about your business and you don’t want to step away from that. There are ways for you to keep doing what you love while also taking small moments of “CEO time”. I’m going to talk about how.
The first thing to talk about is what CEO time actually means. There are three main roles in your business and it’s important to separate them: the provider role which is frontline, the admin role which is scheduling and invoicing and social media, and the CEO role. What does the CEO role look like? How do you accomplish it while keeping yourself invested in the other roles? I have advice for you.
Your CEO role doesn’t need to pull you out of the frontline work that you might love. And, in fact, you might decide to include a CEO in your business down the line. But while you’re a solopreneur it’s important that you understand how to carve out that big picture visionary time every so often where your head is out of the day to day and you’re looking into the future of your business.
05:51 The three roles in business
06:37 What CEO time looks like
14:35 How to do effective market research as a solopreneur
- How can distractions be eliminated during CEO time?
- Focussing on wins in business is a key part of future strategy
- How a CEO type goal is very different in nature from items on a To Do list
Resources discussed in this episode:
- Anchored Leadership Academy
- Remember, podcast listeners can get into Anchored Leadership Academy on an early bird rate for the first 20 people to register. 40% off with coupon code ANCHOREDVIP40 at check out.
Contact Kari Lotzien | Be the Anchor:
Kari Lotzien: [00:00:01] Welcome to Be The Anchor the podcast. I’m your host, business and leadership coach Kari Lotzien. When the seas of life gets stormy, and they always will, it is not up to us to captain anyone else’s ship or to try to calm the waters of the ocean. It’s up to us to set our own destination for what we really want, and to learn how to navigate those waves of life together while finding that place of security and stability with others. I call this being an anchor. If you are a dreamer, a visionary, an entrepreneur, whether you have an idea, big or small, that you think might just make the world a little bit better, kinder, gentler place, you are in the right spot, my friend. We are going to talk about everything from big ideas to mindset and strategy, and sometimes just how to get through the day. I don’t want you to miss an episode, so be sure to follow and subscribe to the podcast so that we can stay connected and keep doing this journey of life together. Thanks so much!
Kari Lotzien: [00:01:11] Hello, my friends. I’m so glad you’re here. Today I want to talk about being a CEO and a solopreneur. Most of the clients that I work with are either moving to a small team, under 10 or 20 people, or they’re making that transition from being a solopreneur in their own job to starting to think of their job as more of a business. Transitioning to what does this look like long term? Where do I want it to go? This is what I call taking the CEO approach to your business. Now I started that way as well. I think one of the difficulties in the podcasts and the courses and the books that I read on entrepreneurship tend to have the philosophy that to be successful in business, you need to move toward the position of CEO in your company, and that you need to move away from working frontline in your business, delivering the service or the product, or doing that kind of frontline work. And here’s the thing, I feel that there are a lot of entrepreneurs that don’t want that. That their vision of why they went into business was not because they wanted to hold the CEO position in their own company. Oftentimes, it was because they wanted to deliver a product or a service in a different way that they didn’t see in the marketplace. Maybe they worked for someone else, but they didn’t have the freedom and flexibility that they wanted to support the lifestyle that they wanted to live. Maybe they wanted to do things a little bit of a different way, but they still were dedicated to the front line service in their business. And I think this is a challenge that a lot of us face when we really love what we do. We love working in our business. And when we listen to those types of trainings or podcasts or opinions, it feels like they just don’t really get me. They don’t really understand my business. I don’t want to be corporate. I don’t want to grow to 500 employees and multi eight figures in business.
Kari Lotzien: [00:03:35] And here’s the thing, you don’t have to. It doesn’t have to be like that. When I think about anchored leadership and being an anchor in your business, what I’m talking about is when you’re running a business and you’re doing the front line service, it’s like you’re paddling that boat. You are doing the work. You’re generating the revenue and you need to. That’s what having a business is, that it’s a trade, your time, your product, for money that then serves your life. When you’re paddling that boat, you’re doing the work. You’re in it. The time spent as a CEO in your business is the time where you pause from paddling. You lift your head and you notice, am I headed in the direction that I want this business to go? Are we still on course? Is there something coming? You notice the current. You notice challenges or waves that are happening out there in the marketplace and you go, oh, I see that coming up and I intentionally make a decision or adjust to change course so that things feel easier. Or maybe you prepare yourself. You know what? I think this is going to be a really difficult time we’re coming into and here’s my approach. I’m going to, you know, gather some people or I’m going to really save my energy because I know that we’re going into a challenging time that’s maybe going to require more of me.
Kari Lotzien: [00:05:08] The time where you pause and lift your head is what I call CEO time. The mistakes that I often see solopreneurs make is that we shift from working in the business, delivering the service or the product, paddling the boat and then we go to admin type tasks and we think that we’re working on the business. If you’re sending receipts to your bookkeeper, if you’re meeting with your accountant, if you’re meeting with lawyers to finish off your year end or whatever that looks like, if you’re sending invoices or sending out payments, that is admin work. That’s not CEO work. So I think the first thing you want to do is separate those three roles in your business. Your provider role where you are frontline, serving customers, selling products, what that looks like and all of the tasks around that, ordering, reordering, invoicing, all of that. Shifting to admin, admin includes scheduling your social media, any type of marketing task, all of your accounts, payables and receivables, all of your bookkeeping type tasks, returning emails, returning phone calls, all of the things that are required to keep your business operational. Those are admin type tasks. You are still working in the business. As we move to, well, what do CEO tasks look like then? It often just looks like spending time intentionally to lift your head and notice what’s happening around you. How I suggest this working best as a solopreneur is you need to literally shift your physical environment. I don’t suggest spending your CEO time, if you have a brick and mortar location, do not be doing this in your office because all of the triggers, all of the visual stimulation around you says, here’s what we do when we are in this space, and you will naturally go to working in the business, you’ll be doing admin, you’ll be dealing with clients. I would also suggest you’re not doing this at home because you have other distractions there. Ideally just carving out some time, this could be a couple of hours at a coffee shop, this could be booking yourself an Airbnb or a hotel for one night. But you’re carving out this time and space as CEO time. Make sure you’re letting people know that you are away, that you are not available during this time, because if you get a client phone call or an email or you’ve got distractions during this time, your brain and your body will learn that that takes precedent. That takes priority over working on the business. And you’re used to doing that. You are used to multitasking and dealing with all of these things. So what you want to do is during this particular CEO time, you’re kind of protecting yourself from yourself. You’re cutting off that contact, you’re eliminating those distractions so that you can come back to really setting your course and where you want to go next.
Kari Lotzien: [00:08:36] Okay, so some of you might be picturing right now that you’re sitting in a hotel, you don’t have the distraction, and now you have no idea what to do next. And I get it, I totally understand. So I’m going to send you away with some key questions and ideas on okay, then what do I spend my time doing? What does this look like? Process. Number one, start with your wins. Since the last time you sat down, so maybe it’s been a year, maybe it’s been a couple. Or maybe it’s been just a few months. Write down where have you made gains? Where have you had wins in your business? And I always like to start here because many of my clients, and I will admit I was this way myself, and I still kind of am, we tend to focus ahead of ourselves all the time. We are visionaries, naturally, so we’re always thinking about where we want to go next or things that aren’t working, problems that we need to solve, but we always tend to be in forward motion, and we don’t spend enough time looking back and really celebrating what has got us to this point in our business.
Kari Lotzien: [00:09:50] You build your business on multiple wins, things that are going well, whether that is you had a client situation that went really wonderfully, you found someone to help you schedule your social media posts, you had a really great conversation where you shared some inspiration or a passion around your business. Big or small, acknowledging the wins that you’ve had thus far will help you to build forward and, too, it almost primes your nervous system that you’re building on success. When we naturally kind of come to this time as a CEO, you might notice that you’re thinking about challenges that you are facing or problems that you need to solve or things that you’re worried about. And naturally, when that happens, we have a negativity bias, every human being has it, when you focus on the negative, your ability to be creative and come up with solutions is limited. Because when we feel challenged, when we feel like we are under fire, or we’re having the stress of trying to solve a challenge, our focus narrows. And it’s harder for us to think of creative solutions. It’s harder for us to have multiple visions of different opportunities that we could face, because just naturally we go into that protective mode which says, I just need to solve this immediate problem and get out of this discomfort or overcome this immediate challenge. So by focusing on your wins first, this allows you to kind of relax your brain and it reminds your brain and your body that things are mostly going well and that I am a resilient person. I’ve overcome so many challenges in the past. I have faith that this will happen again for me, and it kind of just relaxes and creates space. I quite literally envision this as my muscles relax, my brain relaxes, and when I have more space in my muscles, in my thoughts, in my mind, this is where new ideas have space to flow in. So that’s what you want to do first. Other ways that you can do this is you might start this time by going for a walk, listening to music that you really enjoy, pairing it with your favorite warm beverage. You know, a nice cup of tea. Do things that help promote that sense of relaxation that things are okay, and that you have space.
Kari Lotzien: [00:12:31] When you put those things together in your CEO time, this will help to build the foundation for you to have really great ideas. Then you want to lean into, so what are your wins first, then reflect. What is feeling easy right now in your business? What are you really enjoying or what are you getting great feedback on? Maybe this is a time where you’re going to review some of your finances with a focus on what has been profitable, what’s working. So when we start with this again, it’s layering on what are our wins, what’s feeling easy? What am I really enjoying in my business right now? What seems to be working? And then you can shift to, now let’s start to think about others. Are you noticing feedback from your clients or your customers? What are they enjoying? What are they purchasing? What are they interested in? Have they been making requests of things that they would like to see in your business, or ideas that they have? Start to notice that. If you’ve had a new product or a service that you’ve been offering, how are your clients reacting to that? Taking time to just kind of step back and notice. And if you get to this point and you think, well, we did try that product or service but I don’t really know what our clients are thinking about it, and I’m not really sure what the feedback has been, I don’t know if they’re enjoying it or not. You can look at a portion of the data being, are they spending money on it? Are they giving their time and their resources to it? But if there’s other things you want to know, this is a great CEO type activity to say, okay, actually, something I want to take away from this is I need to find out what our clients are thinking about this. I need to find out if they’ve got some ideas of things that we could adjust or change. What do they like? What do they not like? And I’m going to focus some time on just getting that feedback.
Kari Lotzien: [00:14:36] This then leads to the next piece. And I say this one, I want you to imagine this next point coming with a little bit of a caution sign in front of it. I want to talk about market research. The trick with market research, I don’t want you to go down the path of your competitors and start to get stuck in the comparison trap. What I want you to do is to think strategically based on what we’ve talked about before. Your wins, reflecting on what’s easy and what’s working, following client or customer patterns and noticing what’s going on, and then saying, okay, these are some questions I have about the market. Are we still priced competitively in our market? What are some other trends that we’re seeing or things that maybe my competitors or my partners are offering that maybe we haven’t offered yet? Dial in your questions. Know exactly what you want to research or what you want to know before you go into this rabbit hole. Because if you go in without a plan into your market research, you might find yourself hours later just being stuck in a comparison trap of what we’re doing and they’re not, or vice versa. You don’t want to go there. When you’re doing market research, you’re dialing it in to find out key questions about best practices, about what’s happening in the market. Is there a trend or something that’s happening in the outside world that you feel might be affecting your business? Dial it in and set a time on it. I suggest absolutely maximum no more than an hour that you’re dialing this in, because you don’t want to follow threads and end up on like a family circus path where you’re nowhere close to where you started or what you needed. Set yourself a time limit and stick to it so that you know where you’re looking for that information and you know exactly what you’re looking for. Then you pull it into, what challenges are we facing? Maybe what issues or sticky parts are coming up in the business that maybe aren’t easy? Are there things that just feel hard right now? Are there things that you are not enjoying in your business? And I want to highlight these things you may not be enjoying, may be profitable. This just gives us space for it. We’re not making a decision just yet, but I want you to acknowledge that this feels hard, that this doesn’t feel like something that you’re really enjoying in your business, even if it’s profitable. Are there things in your business that you’re really enjoying, that feel easy, but maybe are not generating the profit that you’re wanting them to? Again, this is not time to decide whether or not you’re going to continue with it, but it’s a space to just acknowledge what’s happening.
Kari Lotzien: [00:17:39] You’re just literally lifting your head, looking around, and noticing what’s happening around you. Then you can brain dump. What are all of the ideas that I have floating around right now of maybe things that I want to consider trying in my business? Are there maybe positions that I’m starting to think, oh, maybe I could outsource this part because it’s something I need to do, but I’m really not enjoying it anymore, or I’m finding it difficult. Maybe I understood it at one level, but now that we’re going to this next space or I’m advancing in my company, I really need to have someone with more of an expertise. Just start to brain dump ideas. Again, we want to give space for idea generation before we jump to decision. Sometimes when we are squeezed and we’re in our business and we’ve got multiple demands on our time, we will jump through this process too quickly. And we’ll decide, oh, that isn’t making money, we’re going to stop doing that. We’re not going to offer that product or service anymore. Or oh, here’s a new idea, but it just seems like it’s too much to implement. So we’re not going to do that right now. CEO time allows you to just have space and time to generate ideas without making a decision, without moving forward. It’s just a space where you start to collect your ideas.
Hi my friends, I want to interrupt for just a second and ask you a question. What would your results be at this time next year if you took time to get really clear on what you want and how to plan, and could take action to move that vision forward? You might be saying things like, okay, so I hired a bookkeeper, a social media manager, I have a virtual assistant, and I thought that delegating was supposed to give me all of my time back. But I feel like I am still in my business answering all of the questions, and I feel like I just can’t give any more. I’m not sure what to do next. This program was designed for you. In the Anchored Leadership Academy, I have given ten modules that you work through on your own to develop the skill of leading well. To take your vision from being all on your shoulders, to really taking it to a team that can implement the next level of your business with you. You’re going to learn how to hire and recruit, delegate well, provide feedback with confidence and clarity, and we’re going to have some hard conversations about where you might be getting in your own way. We are going to have ten live sessions together where you get to meet other business owners who are going through similar things that you are. This program is going to be incredible. I’d love for you to join me. Check out the link in the show notes, along with the coupon code for 40% off for my listeners only. I hope to see you there. Back to the show.
Kari Lotzien: Now, that being said, when you’re collecting your ideas, make sure that you write them down. If you think of a board meeting in a large company where there’s a lot of advisors and you’re having that CEO type meeting, they are taking minutes. Make sure you’re taking minutes so that you’re capturing these ideas, even if you are all by yourself. You might think that you’ll remember or there’s a place to come back to it. Often we forget because when you go back to the front line in your business and your mind kind of gets tangled up again in the day to day, you may forget all of these ideas. So I suggest either having a Google document, an ongoing document that you can add to over time, or it can be as simple as just a notebook, but I would title that document or that notebook, your CEO minutes, because you don’t want that to get caught up in all of the minutes and ideas and documents of all of the other things you’re working on in your business, you want this to kind of be a separate thing, so that the next time you have carved out time as a CEO, you’re coming back to your minutes from the previous meeting and you’re just reviewing those ideas and maybe doing some updates like, ooh, that was a challenge then. And it’s something that we’ve overcome now. It might become a win in your next meeting.
Kari Lotzien: Or as you are looking at your patterns with your customers and clients, you might now have the data that you needed to fill in a gap that you identified last time. So we want this, these CEO meetings, even if you’re all by yourself, to have a sense of continuity and they’re occurring on a fairly regular basis, whether you’re doing it monthly, quarterly or even annually at the beginning, I don’t suggest that, I suggest doing it on a more regular basis. But you have that sense of a thread that you’re creating that story and that vision for your business as CEO. So make sure that you’re absorbing that. And then before you close out that session, you’re going to look at all of the data that you’ve produced right from what’s happening in the markets, where your wins have been, what’s feeling good, what information do you need? Where are the sticky spots? And before you close out that meeting, you’re going to create action items. Now, I suggest do not create a list of 22 things that you want to do in your business in the next month. Decide on 1 or 2 things that you want to focus on in that CEO role. So this is different than a to do list of these are all the urgent things that just need to be done to close out our month end, or to get ready for year end or to, you know, work with clients.
Kari Lotzien: This is a CEO type goal. This is what I’m looking towards for maybe the next year. And here is the area that I’m going to focus on so that I’m moving towards that bigger goal. So maybe that’s I’m going to find out a little bit more about market research. Maybe I took my hour, but now I’ve noticed that I actually need to find out more information about certain areas so I’m going to make a list of what things do I need to find out, that’s going to be my area of focus for the next quarter. Or do you need to have something that you’re gathering, more testimonials or more client feedback, and that’s going to be your area of focus. Maybe you’re deciding you actually do want to move forward with a new product or service, and you want to start to create a funnel so that you’re attracting clients, or you’re letting them know this is a new service or a product that we’re offering, and how am I going to optimize that in the bigger picture? So the planning and the big picture guiding towards is CEO. When you’re thinking about your marketing funnel, when you’re thinking about who might be set for this product, maybe who else do I need to let know, because they may be a good referral source, or they may be someone who would be interested in their clients also needing this product, that is CEO time. When you’re looking at kind of that big picture marketing, when you’re looking at creating social media posts and actually implementing that, now that’s back to your admin. So I want you to just see the thread through that system. Putting it all in one spot, having that journal so you can create that story of your business. This, even if you are by yourself in the meeting, these same processes will apply in any small business.
Kari Lotzien: Where I want to bring this back full circle is know that you don’t need to fully step out of the front line of your business. If you really enjoy providing that service, being with your customers, and that’s what fills you up, that’s what feels good for you, know that to be successful in business, you don’t have to move up that proverbial ladder to be a 100% CEO. But you do need to take time on a regular basis, even if it’s a short amount of time, to step into the CEO role and give yourself space and time to do this type of long term visionary work and then come back to that front line. You might do this even as you build your team for long periods. I have a lot of clients that they are the main revenue generator in their business. Chiropractors. Massage therapists. Psychotherapists. If you move into your CEO role full time, you might really be taking away the major revenue generating piece of your business, and you don’t want to do that. So just know that you can do both. You might decide that maybe your long term vision is that you want to be doing customer care three days a week, and you really want to hold more of that ownership or CEO role two full days a week as you build your team. That’s fine. I just want to give you permission that you don’t need to have this vision of moving out of frontline work, because the other thing that I sometimes, actually often see, is that as owners move into that more management or ownership role and they move away from client service, they actually start to lose the passion for their business. So if that’s happening to you, you also want to give yourself a place to notice that and to say, okay, you know what, I thought this was what I wanted, but it’s not working for me. This doesn’t feel enjoyable. I don’t really like spending all of my time working with team members and managing staff and working with all of that piece. If you don’t, then that can also be time in your CEO role where you say, okay, these are the pieces of the business that I’m actually not enjoying doing. I want to make the customer care and that frontline piece of my work central in my long term plan. And then we look at filling different areas. So you may look at bringing in someone into your business who is more of a CEO type role, or an integrator role as a partner, or even as a senior level manager in your business. That might be your long term plan. And that’s okay.
Kari Lotzien: I hope today gave you some clear ideas on how, even as a solopreneur, you can set aside time as a CEO. I hope that you take away those points to see exactly how you can use that time, so that you don’t just kind of spin your wheels and end up not having value in that time that really moves your business forward. Thank you so much for being here. Make sure that you like and subscribe to the podcast and please share it. There are so many people out in the world right now who are trying to make a go of business. They’ve got a brilliant product or service. They are a wonderful person and you want to see them succeed. But navigating this journey can be challenging. Share the resource with them. Give them that little boost up. It’s free, it’s easy, and it builds our communities together. Thanks so much for being here. See you next week.
Kari Lotzien: Please know that this podcast is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitution for medical or professional mental health advice. If you require support, please do reach out. Thanks so much.