Did you really go into business to manage the daily nitty-gritty details of your entire practice? Or is your real mission to help your clients create and safeguard their wealth — to assist them in reaching their life goals? In fulfilling your mission, are you creating your dream business — one that makes a big difference in your life and in the lives of those you love? Way too often, the “busy-ness” of business gets in the way of our best intentions. The secret is to catch ourselves when we begin to wear too many hats. See: 5 ways for stressed-out advisors to build a more efficient practice.

Those who still use the word “practice” to describe their firm have effectively created a paycheck and some extra tax deductions for themselves. Being self-employed often translates into doing all the work. “The Boss” handles the production, administration, marketing, sales, bookkeeping, data entry and everything else!

Most financial advisors are slaves to their practices because they have very few people working with them. They’ll tell you they have help—they have a team. Sometimes they do, but more often they have one administrative assistant who isn’t busy enough; it’s “easier” for The Boss to handle tasks than to delegate them.

Alternatively, the assistant is too busy learning new skill sets by the seat of his or her pants. You’ll often hear self-employed people say, “I’m overwhelmed, tired, and I have no time for that.” You’ll never hear them say,“I’m taking the day off!” or “I’m going on vacation for two weeks,” because when they take any time off, their firm makes no money. Nada, not a penny. See: Top 10 ways financial advisers can 'market smarter’ — and enjoy it more in 2012.

An honest look

If you’ve been in business for a while, you might think that you’re no longer self-employed. Think again. In 12 years, maybe 1% of my clients were business owners when they hired me; the majority were captaining a burning ship — running a business stuck in “practice mode” and frantically putting out fires.

As the owner of a company, your ideal activities should be focused on production and building the company so it can run without you. Take a look at the list below and you will see that it is impossible do every task yourself, even with an assistant.

• President/CEO
• Salesperson
• Purchasing manager
• Office manager
• Event planner
• Technology specialist
• Speaker
• Social networking/Internet guru
• Human services manager
• Marketing director
• Accounting/finance manager
• Compliance/legal manager
• Desktop publisher/designer
• Customer service rep
• Inventory manager
• Quality control manager
• Consultant
• Coach/mentor
• Organizer
• Trainer
• Writer
• Janitor
• Assistant to you
• And at a minimum, assistants to all the managers/specialists above

Make the shift in more ways than one

Transitioning from merely self-employed to business owner requires two shifts: the first is in mindset and the second is in business structure. In order to shift your mindset, you must begin to see your business as an investment, as a way to build a nest egg for retirement, a valuable asset to sell later or a legacy to leave behind. Changing your perspective in this way forces you to ask yourself the same questions you ask your clients. Keeping the end goal in mind makes it easier to determine the best use of your time. It’s also helpful if you give up being the Lone Ranger and find a mastermind group or hire an advisor. Either method provides a confidential sounding board for airing and solving your business challenges. See: 10 reasons for advisors to just say no to less-than-ideal clients.

From this change in mindset, you begin to see that hiring employees who share in your vision creates a team of producers who can run your office without you. Business owners give themselves the gift of time and others the gift of a paycheck (and the pleasant experience of working with a well-rested boss). Business owners know the importance of planning, especially breaking down all the activities of a business and gradually hiring a team to take care of them. General categories to plan for include:

• Production
• Management
• Operations
• Administration
• Marketing
• Human resources
• Internet technology

Once all busy-ness activities are reassigned, the business operates like a well-oiled machine—even when “The Boss” takes time off.

Take steps today

Today, take steps to shift into the full-fledged owner of a business investment. Get rid of the many hats you’re wearing and create a business model based on living your ideal life and running your ideal business.

If you aren’t yet able to hire additional employees or consultants to help build your business, create a plan to do so. We recommend — and all of our clients create — a One Page Business Plan for Financial ServicesTM, because it creates focus and accountability, and makes achieving results easier to monitor. Plus it’s an easy read for your support team, which will be helping you execute it. One of your goals should be “Hire (number of new members of your support team) by (a date between now and 12 months from now)”.

But it starts with you creating your activity list to note where you spend your time, because business will work much better for you when you stop giving away your time to initiatives someone else could and should be handling. Transform your business model into one that serves your life and allows you to help as many people as possible, fulfilling many dreams in the process—which is the real reason you started your business to begin with.

Action step

Create an activity list with columns labeled Name of Task, Team Member, Length of Time, How Often and Equipment Needed. Record all business activities you perform that take place in a three-month time span, including quarterly tasks. Don’t duplicate tasks as this is not a daily task list but instead is a list of accumulated tasks. You’ll use this to delegate fairly across your support team, determine more accurate job descriptions, cross-train team members and plan for future hires.

Maria Marsala founded Elevating Your Business in 1998 as an international coaching and speaking company offering innovative solutions, practical tools and ongoing support to business owners who choose to create their ideal lives and businesses. Marsala brings more than 35 years’ business experience to the independent financial advisor, agent and accounting sectors using a mixture of coaching, advising and training that she calls EduCoachingTM. Often quoted in the media, Marsala has written a number of workbooks and hundreds of articles. She speaks at conferences and company events. To book her as a speaker your attendees will thank you for, call (360) 271-8418. Better yet, have your assistant call! Request complimentary business growth tips, marketing articles, audios and a Breakthrough Session at http://www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com.