How to give yourself a better job

Fri, 09-09-2011
By: Anne Fisher

Are you having fun yet? As with so many things in life, spending too much time on work that you don’t like has a way of sneaking up on you slowly, without your noticing at first.

In the earliest phases of a startup business, of course, founders do everything from balancing the books to taking out the trash to standing in line at the post office. But once your company has grown beyond that stage, it may be time to take a fresh look at how you spend your days—and, if you find that you don’t like your job, change it.

“As an entrepreneur, you have the freedom to create the job you want … [and] to make sure the tasks you enjoy don’t get lost in the rest of the business stuff,” wrote Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams in their new book, The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business That Works for You. “After working so hard to finally be in the driver’s seat, it only makes sense to drive the way you want to.”

The pair are co-founders of In Good Company, a 4-year-old shared work space and business development center for women, located in New York City. Besides providing offices, conference rooms and event rooms, In Good Company runs seminars for female entrepreneurs on topics such as developing a workable budget, hiring the right talent and using social media.

In talking with the center’s 300-odd members, “we started to notice a pattern,” Ms. Abrams said in an interview. “Women starting businesses tended to get disenchanted after a couple of years. Their companies were succeeding, but they themselves were not enjoying that success as much as they had thought they would, and often not really using their unique talents to the fullest. They felt they had gotten off-track somehow.”

The reasons that entrepreneurs lose sight of why they started their own companies in the first place are legion, including reluctance to delegate and “trying to follow one-size-fits-all business advice that may not apply to everyone,” Ms. Abrams said.

The Big Enough Company, based on interviews with more than 100 female business owners nationwide, is packed with ideas about how to get your groove back.

The first step: Cast yourself in the right role, one that will keep you from wasting time on nonessential tasks so that you can put your special talents to the best use.

The book notes that in the case of Jen Walzer, chief executive of Manhattan-based data backup company Backup My Info, that means concentrating on taking the best possible care of employees so that they’re inspired to deliver what Ms. Walzer calls “obsessive customer service.”

Michelle Madhok, founder and chief of online shopping service SheFinds.com, takes a different tack. She has established herself as an expert on how to track down the best deals in cyberspace. That helps her company gain lots of media attention and, not incidentally, new customers.

Every business is unique, so no two entrepreneurs’ jobs can or should be the same. But, Ms. Abrams and Ms. Lancaster believe, they should all be enjoyable.

After all, they wrote, “If you wanted a job you didn’t like, there are plenty that require less work, stress, and time.” Too true.

What do you enjoy most (and least) about running your company?