Back Office Secrets
with Jenny Shih

Stop Wasting Time Now: Mistakes That Successful Entrepreneurs Must Avoid

Do you ever feel so busy with the day-to-day aspects of your business that there’s not enough time to work on your world-changing ideas? Does your business fall apart when you do spend time working on your big dreams?

You don’t have to trade off your big dreams for your daily operations. By streamlining your business, you’ll save time and create the hours you need to change the world, without sacrificing the day-to-day aspects of your business.

Whether you are brand new to business or consider yourself a seasoned pro, here are seven time-wasting mistakes you must avoid in order for you to change the world and keep your business running.

Mistake #1: Allowing chaos to be the norm
Growing pains happen, but chaos should not be an everyday experience. Deliberately and intentionally choose to make the day-to-day aspects of your business chaos-free. This is a choice you can make.

If you believe that your business will always be chaotic, then it will be. If you want more ease, you can create it. Start by getting everything out of your head.

Mistake #2: Keeping everything in your head
When your business is small, it’s easy to remember that your client Sally is scheduled for next Tuesday at 1 and that you want to post to your blog on Wednesday. However, as your business grows, keeping important details in your head guarantees that something will be forgotten.

The fewer details you keep in your head, the more space you have for big-picture thinking and creative work. Start capturing tasks, appointments, and details in a trusted system.

Mistake #3: Using ineffective systems
A system is any repeated course of action, whether it’s an automated process for scheduling clients or a place where you stack all of your bills. Everyone has systems, but most entrepreneurs have ineffective systems, leaving clients dissatisfied, tasks incomplete, and important appointments forgotten.

Effective systems, on the other hand, leave you assured that everything will be done effectively, efficiently, and on time.

One of the benefits of having an effective system is that the tasks within that system can be easily outsourced.

Mistake #4: Waiting too long to hire help
It is important to hire help before you’ve reached a point of desperation. It takes time for even a skilled assistant to learn how your business runs.

Begin by delegating some simple, routine tasks. For example, do you need to be the one to post your blog to your site? Even if it saves only 15 minutes, delegating this task does save you time and it will help you learn how to delegate.

Pick one thing to delegate first, then slowly give your assistant more to do. Once you hire help, you can save time, money, and stress by learning to delegate effectively.

Mistake #5: Delegating ineffectively and inefficiently
Most entrepreneurs “wing it” when they delegate. They send half-thought-out emails or instant messages asking for tasks to be completed. This is a dangerous move. It wastes time and money and results in surmounting frustration on both sides.

Clearly communicate your desired outcome, the necessary action steps, and the details that are important to you. Even if your assistant is good, she’s not a mind-reader.

It takes longer to write an email that describes every detail of everything you want done, but it will prevent the need for a dozen back-and-forth clarifying emails. Most importantly, it will help your assistant do her job correctly the first time.

As you delegate more aspects of your business, it’s time to slowly step out of the details.

Mistake #6: Staying in all of the details or jumping out too fast
Once you have an assistant taking care of routine tasks in your business, be careful not to swing too far to either side of the management pendulum: micromanagement or abdication.

To avoid either fate, find the middle ground. Check in regularly with your assistant to see how the tasks are going, and also trust that if she’s been fully trained, she’s taking care of what she’s been assigned.

Once you and your assistant have established an effective routine, you need to ensure there is someone else who can complete her tasks when she’s unavailable.

Mistake #7: Not backing up the critical people in your business
It’s wonderful having an assistant you can trust to take care of critical parts of your business. You must know, however, that no matter how dedicated she is to you and your business, your assistant can get sick, go on vacation, or find another job at any time.

Have your assistant (and anyone else who is critical to your business) document the exact work she does for you. Screen capture videos are an excellent way to do this. With thorough documentation complete, your assistant’s critical role can be easily backfilled if she is unavailable at any time.

The Bottom Line
You don’t have to trade off your big, world-changing ideas with the smooth functioning of your daily operations.

Start streamlining your business by implementing the ideas mentioned above. You’ll save time, money, and your sanity.

Best of all, you’ll be able to really change the world.


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About Jenny Shih

Jenny Shih of is a coach and consultant for small business owners. Her clients are “idea factories” with growing businesses who need help planning, strategizing, streamlining and systematizing. She helps new entrepreneurs define their niche, learn the basics of marketing, and start making money. And she helps experienced entrepreneurs set up systems so they can get out of the daily grind and spend more time doing what they love.

Jenny is the author of The System Flight Kit, everything you need to create effective systems in your business, and The Idea Flight Kit, a step-by-step guide for turning your ideas into something real. Download your copies right here. They’re FREE!


  1. Interesting. Do you have any advice on outsourcing …you mentioned using an assistants…do you outsource tasks to virtual assistants?

    • Yes, outsource as much as you can to an assistant whenever possible. Otherwise, you are the biggest limitation to your business’s growth!

      There are many different ways to find an assistant. My personal favorite is word of mouth. You can also post your specific needs on Twitter and see if someone bites. You can check out elance for a variety of skilled assistance. Lastly, has a good pay-as-you-go option, as well as retainer options for VA needs.

  2. Guilty!

    Hands raised!


    I love the point about abdicating responsibility. I can totally see how after finally getting over the hump in deciding to delegate, you could decide to screw it and not pay any attention. Great post!

    • You’re funny, Sarah! Yes, so many people say, “Amen! An assistant!” Then promptly wipe their hands of any responsibility. That never works for business growth.

      Thanks for your brutal honesty!

  3. Great article. And I especially love the reminder to have a backup plan for your team/VA. I loved being able to call in my former VA to fill in for holidays, etc and I’d sort of forgot to implement that into my current plan. Great reminder. Thanks Jenny

    • You’re one of the few, Loralee. Many don’t have backups. The crazy thing is it’s not hard to have a backup–it just takes a little planning.

  4. Such an amazing article, Jenny. My skinny purse and I are in the Phase I, Do Everything Yourself booth…but I’m quite sure that will be changing this year :)

    Really love the specific plans and resources that you outline here. I was *just* talking to myself, literally, about making a Process Map for my various projects to track the most efficient systems, nix the ones that suck and collaborate better with my (future) assistants.

    Appreciate your insights and heart!

    • Nice, RuDee! Even when you’re just starting out, creating and growing your business with an eye on the long-term plan will prepare you and your biz for when you make the next leap. For example, starting out with a great system for X will make it really easy for you to delegate once you have the cash to hire. Then things will really take off!

  5. Thanks Jenny, this is a really useful post. As I am reading through this list I am can see where I need to make some changes.

  6. Great post Jenny. I love how each step leads logically into the next. Thanks for making it stream-lined and simple to follow. I love your definition of systems too! So often we over complicate systems in our minds.

    Thanks for the nudge to streamline a few key systems in my biz.

  7. Hi Jenny. I haven’t gotten to the point where I need to hire help, but I will need to in the near future. I find mistakes #4-#7to be very helpful. It is nice to know some of the pitfalls in advance so I can avoid them. Thank you! ;-)

  8. What a refreshing list, Jenny. Thanks for this. Some I’ve done, some I haven’t, but either way your vibe of helping solopreneurs is awesome. Going to check out your stuff.

  9. reading this list has helped me realise where I need to make some changes.”abdicating responsibility” love those words….

  10. Great information. I’ve been outsourcing for nearly a decade, but I must learn to let go of more. No. 7 is a tough one for some of my resources. I have tried to find alternate sources, but for some of my contractors, nobody gets it like he does. (Web developer) But I’ll keep working on it.

    Thanks again for such great info and advice.


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