How to Build a Business That Runs Itself

Build a business
indiana jones waiting GIF

Having crawled through the forbidden tomb, fighting off venomous snakes, angry beasts, and otherworldly spirits along the way, you finally cast your eyes on the marble altar, on which sits the holy grail of the entrepreneurial world… Yes, you can believe your eyes… It's a business that runs itself!

…and *scene*. 🎬

While my scriptwriting may need a little work, the sentiment is true – a business that runs itself is the holy grail of the entrepreneurial world.

I believe it’s fair to argue that, unless you genuinely LOVE the job you’ve created for yourself, every entrepreneur dreams of building a business that runs itself.

However, it may still feel like I am writing about something that is practically unattainable. Even if you COULD build a business that runs itself, how long would the fairytale last?

In this article, I aim to demystify self-running businesses and discuss some practical solutions to help YOU achieve this seemingly impossible goal.

What is a business that runs itself?

Defining a business that runs itself depends entirely on YOUR interpretation and goals. 

Some people consider self-service car washes a truly “self-running” business and are happy to sit back and watch the money pour into their accounts as cars emerge sparkly clean.

Car Wash Dancing GIF by Justin Timberlake

For others, turning their existing business from a 7-day-a-week job to a 4-day-a-week money-making machine is more than enough.

The most important thing in either scenario is that YOU decide what involvement you want to have by creating your dream job description and then executing it.

So few business owners can actually say they have done this.

How do I create a business that runs itself?

There are a couple of steps sitting between you and the holy grail. They aren’t as dangerous as venomous snakes, but they require some attention nonetheless. 

Step 1: Create a crystal clear vision of the future

Most people just get their car rolling down the road without putting a destination in their navigation system. Even if you decide to add a stop along with the way or eventually change the destination, you have to set an end goal RIGHT NOW.

You must have a well-thought-out life plan and business plan, with a strategy to back it up.

To help you achieve this, ask the following questions:

  • What impact do you want to have on the world?
  • What do you care about and what are you passionate about?
  • How much money do you want to make?
  • How many employees do you want to have?
  • What is your dream job in your own company?

Even disregarding the power of manifestation, you are going to be able to communicate this crystal clear vision to your team, customers, and associates. This will make it much easier for EVERYONE to help turn your dream into a reality.

Step 2: Create GREAT systems 

In its simplest form, a business is a system.  

I like to use the term “Money Printing Machine,” as that is ultimately what we are all aiming for here. 

Just like any machine, there are a set of processes that happen for the machine to run correctly.

Everything you do in your business is a process. The first thing we need to change is how we think about these processes.

There are three roles in business as claimed by Michael Gerber of The E-Myth:

  • Technicians – The people that DO the process working in the business
  • Managers – The people that oversee the people doing the processes
  • Entrepreneurs – The people/person that looks to the future and works ON the business

The goal for us as business owners is to remove ourselves from the technician role by only wearing the manager and entrepreneur hats.

To do this, we need to create transparent systems and processes so that we can delegate responsibilities to our teams and end up becoming GREAT teachers.

Creating effective SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and training our team members allows us to move away from any technician activities.

All of this must happen while staying very organized. Simplicity is KEY.

Meanwhile, having a well-structured digital filing system is a strong starting point that will keep you and your team from getting lost along the way.

Finally, as you progress over time, you can start automating all repetitive tasks like turning repetitive emails into templates, making email signatures easy with tools like Wisestamp, or adding new employees to Google Drive automatically by using HR tools like Rippling.

Step 3: Implement a goal-setting framework

There are many different goal-setting framework options out there. I spent many months going through each of them and figuring out which would best serve the business owner who wants to automate their business.

Of all the options, it became obvious that OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) were the best for me. If you want to know more, you can read this article on creating OKRs.

By having your team become part of the goal-setting process, they become more aligned with the goals of the company. They also become more likely to achieve them and will soon start to create their own ambitious goals! 

Over time, your team begins to own their department’s growth. Top performers will get better while underperformers will naturally find their way out the door.

Step 4: Build a team to crush your goals for you

Now that you are setting and achieving ambitious goals, you can start adding more top performers to your team!  

I’ll be honest in saying that 24 months ago, I was clueless about how to find, filter, and convince top-level talent to join my company.

After speaking with some of the best recruiters in the US and reading just about every book on hiring there is available, I devised a streamlined system to deliver top talent consistently.

  1. Clearly define the objectives and goals of the position before starting
  2. Source the best candidate pool available for the position
  3. Follow a detailed strategic interview process to weed out the non-A players
  4. Sell the job

Once you have yourself an A player, you’ll need to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. Ensure you give them the autonomy to make their own decisions.

Letting go scares most business owners, but because you have created a clear vision, mission, and set of goals, you will feel better about letting people do their thing and offering constructive feedback!

Step 5: Communicate like a leader

Creating a set of communication guidelines with your team helps set the tone in the company. Ask yourself:

  • How do we communicate (i.e. which platforms)?  
  • When do we communicate?  
  • How do YOU, as the founder, work best?
  • How do we speak to customers?
  • What is our marketing voice?
  • How do we speak to each other?
  • How do we resolve conflicts?

It sounds simple – almost primitive – but filling in the blanks of these questions alone is a great starting point. It gives your new hires a clear indication of what is expected of them.

Additionally, you set the tone for how your team solves challenges.

Implementing a “Solutions Mentality” in the company can be a MASSIVE shift for you and your team.

A solutions mentality turns “Problems” into “Challenges.” You could be talking about the same thing, but that small change in phrasing makes a BIG difference.

Encouraging your team to find solutions to these challenges before presenting them to you empowers your team to make intelligent decisions.

The shift doesn’t always happen overnight. However, when someone comes to you with a challenge, asking, “How do YOU think we should solve this?” instead of telling them will help steer their thinking towards how you would have solved the problem.

Who knows, they may even have better solutions than you!

Step 6: Set everyone up for success

All of these teachings are great, but it’s too easy to fall behind on your new healthy habits.  

“It’s not real until it’s in the calendar”

– Anonymous

Blocking out time in your calendar before the year starts is essential in ensuring that you don’t accidentally blow through the end of the quarter and forget to make time for the most critical components of your self-managing business. 

Before the year begins, check-in with:

  • Yourself and your vision
  • Your business strategy
  • Your teams and their goals (OKR review)
  • Your employees individually, as well as their objective and purpose in the company

What are some examples of businesses that run themselves?

It may be the holy grail, but unlike traditional holy grails, there are many examples of businesses that run themselves.

A few cases include ATMs, car washes, vending machines, laundromats, and self-storage facilities.

season 3 the great snail race GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

However, the reality is that most businesses can be semi-automated, and most business owners are thrilled with that. 

The completely automatic business models tend to stray away from passion and purely towards profit, which removes one of the freedoms we all crave: Purpose.

My advice is to always start with purpose because, why not? Then work backwards, and design a self-managing business around it.  

If you already have a business, now is the perfect time to start working on automating it so you can spend more time doing what you love and what makes you fulfilled.

Can my business run itself forever?

Hypothetically, yes. 

Here is a list of companies over 100 years old to give you some inspiration.

Naturally, the future will forever be uncertain. But, I can say that by creating the freedom of time in automating most of your business, you will have the luxury of time and headspace to look into the future, anticipate roadblocks, learn, and apply new practices and information to your business with ease.

Whether you are just starting a business, or have been running your business for ten years, there has never been a better time to start designing your dream life – and a business that supports it!

We’re here to support you in your journey to build a business that runs itself. Reach out at

Questions? Comments? We’re here for you at!

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