There is a phenomenon that’s all too common with small to medium business owners. I call it the “Hamster Wheel”.

It starts insidiously, so you may not even notice you’re on it, until it starts spinning faster and faster, while youhamster run faster and faster just to keep up.

You get more and more stressed, potentially end up with a heart attack. Or if you’re lucky, the wheel throws you off first and you come to your senses before major damage is done.

So what gets people onto the Hamster Wheel and how can you avoid succumbing to it.

It starts with a belief that you have to do everything in your business. And that no one else can do it as well as you can.

And while that was probably true when you started your business, there always comes a point where there are more jobs to be done than time available.

And frankly, whether you believe it or not, there are plenty of other people who are equally, if not better at doing some of the jobs you’ve taken on.

Over the last 30 years I’ve seen a plethora of different ways people create work for themselves. Here’s a small sample from my observations. See if you can relate to any of them.

You hire staff, but don’t trust them and let them get on with their jobs.

Nobody likes a nit-picker and there’s nothing worse than having someone stand over your shoulder watching how you do something.

So hire good people and let them get on with it. Yes, they may not do it exactly the way you would. Yes, they may well make mistakes. But unless you let them, how will they ever learn?

The opposite side of the spectrum is…

You delegate – but never follow up.

You’ve hired someone. They’re a big talker and tell you all the stuff they’re going to do. So you trust them to get on with it, without ever checking if it actually happens. This is delegation and abdication!

Always remember. Talk is cheap. Actions always speak louder than words.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across this with business owners who complain bitterly that their people talk big, but simply don’t take responsibility for getting the actual job done. Then the owner (or MD) complains they have to shoulder all the work again and/or spend all their time chasing up stuff… Running on the speeding up Hamster Wheel.

We have a saying… “You get what you tolerate!”

If you tolerate mediocre performance that’s what you’ll get. And frankly, that’s exactly what you deserve.

You need to set the bar high and create a culture in your organisation that rewards achievement, taking responsibility and being accountable.

And if people don’t want to step up, move them on gently, but firmly.

Leaving people who don’t perform in the organisation will erode morale. It also sends a very bad message to other staff who are performing well. They look at you and wonder why you’re tolerating bad performance and will eventually lose respect for you – and possibly move on.

You hire someone because you’re desperate.

This is almost never a good idea as your judgement is going to be clouded.

You want someone to take the stress off you so badly that you might pick the best of a bad bunch. Or someone who once again talks big and delivers little once they’re hired.

Effective interviewing is a skill that many people don’t have. And it’s surprising how few managers actually do in depth reference checks. The leopard doesn’t change his spots and while people can and do change, it’s not what they say, but what they’ve done that gives you the best indication of future performance.

Oh, and if you’ve hired a salesperson, set realistic KPI’s and measure their performance in terms of actual revenue and profit they bring in.

Over the last couple of years I’ve seen cases where sales people earned 6 figure base salaries and reasonably short sales cycles were allowed to go for over 2 years without bringing in any new business. They’d make all sorts of excuses as to why people weren’t buying. But that’s all they are… excuses.

If this is the case in your business, fire them and get new people who are hungry and want to succeed.

Of course, you could get lucky and that wonderful person joins your business. But if not, you’ve just added to your workload and I can hear the whirr of the Hamster Wheel speeding up!

And finally…


You focus on the small stuff and completely miss the big picture

Every business has two types of activities.

Those that make you money and the rest.

The importance is knowing which is which and making sure you do enough of the former and delegate the latter if possible.

Activities that make you money include marketing, sales and delivery. While activities like bookkeeping, IT (making sure your computers work) etc. are vital, they can be done by someone else.

As the leader of your business you must spend time strategizing your direction. You must take the time to work on your business, set goals and put in place plans and tactics to help you get there.

You must take the time to set up the business systems, KPI’s and performance reviews which will ensure your long term success.

Putting it off may well serve you in the short term, but eventually it’ll catch up with you and then the Hamster Wheel will truly be spinning out of control.

So if you can relate to any of the above and are willing to do something to fix it, we have a variety of coaching and consulting programs which will have you take control back in your business and banish the Hamster Wheel forever.

Give us a call on (02) 9499-7958 before it’s too late!

Rashid & Barbara.

Share this...