Conquering ‘the tyranny of the urgent’

Recently, a landscape professional, who has been in business for many years, called me and said he didn’t return my calls or emails because he didn’t have time. He suffered from “the tyranny of the urgent.”

Having had my own business for 30 years and, now, having worked with more than 125 companies over the past 12 years, I know this is a very common problem.

If you are working in your company putting out the proverbial fires all day, then you also are a victim of “the tyranny of the urgent.” Unfortunately, as long as this is happening, you will never get to the important things that will build your company.

The moral of the story is the sooner you replace yourself—yes, work yourself out of a job—the better for your business! So, make that your future goal. An example of this is Ray Crock, the founder of McDonalds. He didn’t get caught up flipping burgers because his burger guy didn’t show up for work. He didn’t say he just couldn’t find burger people to do the job, so he was going to have to work the second shift and flip burgers until he found one. Instead, he spent his time creating systems, finding and hiring the right people, and creating processes for them to do their jobs. Right from the beginning, he worked on building a business that would operate without him and, as a result, it turned into what you see today.

If you are caught up doing a particular job in your business—in the operations or sales, or doing the estimating, creating proposals, or billing—make it your goal to work yourself out of that job! You are not indispensable and you’re really not saving your company any money. You actually may be the proverbial “bottleneck.” So, stop flipping the burgers!

I know this transition doesn’t happen over night. It took me several years to fill all the positions and have my landscape company running fully independent of me. But, I did it and you can too. Two important tools to combat the tyranny of the urgent are an organization chart to show the positions in the company and the reporting structure, and detailed descriptions for each job function to provide clarity for all about their expected duties.

What are the benefits of this shift in focus from working in your company to working on it? It’s the difference between just having a job and making a living to building a business. It’s having the time to grow your company and enjoy the process. It’s making a living without working six days a week, 12 hours a day. It means the ability to spend time with your family and actually take a summer vacation. And lastly, beside the many benefits mentioned, it means building a salable company that can become your future “nest egg.”

So, work to eliminate the “tyranny of the urgent.” Stop flipping the burgers and replace yourself as soon as you can; you will not regret it.

– Ed Laflamme

This article was featured on PLANET’s April 2013 Newsletter

Ed Laflamme LIC

started his own business from scratch, built it up, sold it and then wrote a book about how he did it. So, he’s been there. He understands your frustrations, worries and concerns. Some of you may want to buy companies, while others may want to sell the one you own. You need expert assessment and guidance before you can move forward. Ed has experience in this area. He is recognized as a CLP: Certified Landscape Professional. Read Ed's full bio.