Wanna know why most small business owners fail?

Because they keep doing $10 per hour tasks.

They're the ones who pick up the phone when customers call. They reply to all the emails their company receives. All problems (even the small ones!) need to be handled by them.

Look, here's the deal: When an owner spends the majority of their time on low-value work, it's almost impossible for their business to grow.

But when I tell these owners "man, you need to start working on your systems and processes", I hear the same excuses over and over again...

"I just don't have time now." Or, "I have other more urgent things to work on first."

They get that it's important to work on their businesses, but they're just not making it a priority.

So, let me be blunt here:

You're always going to have emergencies in the business. You're always going to have a gazillion things on your to-do list.

And despite of all hurdles that life throws your way, you need to make a choice. Do you want to keep reacting to unexpected situations that pop up? Or do you want to actually take the reins of your business and be a real leader?

Let me share with you the three best lessons I've learned to help you keep focused on what really matters:

1.  Only chase profits by plan.

Never, never get blinded by shiny objects. I learned this golden rule when I interviewed Terry Nicholson, the former national trainer of a NYSE-listed home services company (over $900 million in revenue before getting acquired).

If you're an entrepreneur who's struggling to stay afloat, it might be tempting to just take up any deals that you get. But think of it this way: what gives you good money in the short term might distract you, and hurt your business in the long term.

I've made this very same mistake myself. Back in the early days of A1 Garage, I was trying to sell all kinds of products and services that customers asked for (and driving myself crazy in the process). Later, I decided to change my strategy and focus on one core business -- garage doors -- and that's when I finally hit the $10 million mark.

2. Wear less hats.

You cannot be the accountant, the marketer, the salesperson all at the same time.

Look, I know that many entrepreneurs start off as one-man-show. And that's completely fine. But there will come a time when you've got too many things on your plate.

At this point, if you refuse to hire, you'll not only lose a ton of potential sales, but also risk to end up burning out.

If you ask me, you should be working on what you're best at, and build a team full of A-players who can take care of the rest.

How do you do this? First, draw up an organizational chart to define the roles you need now and in the future. Then, make your first hire, and delegate with clear expectations and instructions.

3. Make time to work on your future business.

Think about what you want your business to look like five years down the road... and start taking steps to make it happen, today.

Consistency is key here. I recommend setting up a recurring event on your calendar, and blocking out an hour of your time each week. During this time, turn off your phone, close your doors, and just focus on your future business. Create systems and processes, look for CRMs that can facilitate your work, create KPIs and goals, you got it.

Now, I've been a small business owner myself. I get how difficult it is to tear yourself away from everything that's happening right now and focus your attention on the big picture. But here's the thing: if you spend all your time working in the business, you'll run yourself ragged, and limit your company's growth.

Published on: May 3, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.