By Bruce Hakutizwi
Building a successful business requires discipline, dedication, and a detail-oriented approach. The most successful business owners are invariably hands-on, taking an active interest, and role, in every aspect of the business.
This hands-on approach is indispensable when building and shaping a business. But as your company evolves, so must you. Many of the most admired leaders have been successful not only because of entrepreneurship, but also because they knew when it was time to step away and leave the daily operations in the capable hands of the team they built along the way.
As a hands-on business owner it’s tempting to become a micromanager as your business grows more complex. But you must realize that the skills needed to sustain your business are not the same as those that helped you get it off the ground. In fact, the same traits that helped you successfully launch your business can ultimately inhibit its growth down the road. Left unchecked, micromanagement will inevitably turn your attention away from the the talents you possess that add value to your business, and ultimately, it will demotivate your team.
Learning to let go
Learning to let go can be difficult in all aspects of life, and business is no exception. Relinquishing control of the business into which you’ve spent years developing seems counterintuitive — but when the time comes, you must.
You should no longer be writing copy with your marketing team or sitting in on calls once you’ve established your sales team. And you shouldn’t be writing your own code or fabricating your company’s products once you’ve hired and IT manager and engineer. While incredibly important, those tasks can and should be entrusted to the team you hired to accomplish them.
As the owner of a growing company, your priority is hiring and retaining smart, talented people, and empowering them to succeed. If you can do that, then delegating the day-to-day tasks of the business will be a natural next step.
No easy task
Finding talented employees that will share in the vision for your company isn’t easy. In fact, hiring is one of the few skills in business that rarely gets easier to master over time because every person is different and trends are always evolving.
But, much like a college football program, your business is only successful if there is constantly new talent in the pipeline. Investors recognize the value of this talent pipeline and often cite it as a key reason they pursue buying a business.
It’s critical to put systems in place to regularly attract, vet, train and monitor incoming talent. Once you identify employee traits that will add value to your business, it’s your job to empower those you hire for success. Once you do you’ll be able to delegate with trust, knowing the key functions of your business are being handled by skilled, competent team members.
The power of trust
Skilled, competent employees tend to know their value. They want your trust and they relish the opportunity to add value to the business with some level of autonomy. Even well-compensated employees will seek other opportunities if they feel micro-managed and aren’t given the room to do the job for which they were hired. There’s no surer way to alienate an employee than by constantly looking over his shoulder.
Jack Welch, longtime chairman and CEO of General Electric put it best: “If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them.”
What do you do now?
Don’t worry about making yourself obsolete. Gradually removing yourself from the daily tasks of running the business is a positive, natural step in its organic growth. And that doesn’t mean you must step away entirely. Virgin CEO Richard Branson and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are among the wildly successful business owners that are known for keeping a pulse on their daily operations. But they do so without interfering.
Likewise, once your trusted team is in place, you must limit your interference and keep your focus on longer-range, strategic goals and adding value based on the talents that make you indispensable to your business.
For example, as the head of the company, no one is better equipped to connect with current and potential investors. Everything you and your team are able to accomplish depends on maintaining a healthy financial foundation for your company. You can’t hire and retain quality employees you can trust if you don’t have adequate funds. Unless or until you’ve appointed a CFO, this is a task you shouldn’t delegate.
Likewise, developing long-term strategic goals for continued growth should be within the purview of a successful leader. There’s never a point at which a successful business can afford to sit back and coast. It must always be pushing ahead, taking risks, and seeking rewards. You owe it to yourself and your team to spearhead that effort.
Loosening your grip on the business you’ve built from the ground up is a stressful, but imperative part of its growth. If you maintain an iron grip on all the operations of your business — if you micromanage your team — your company will never reach its full potential.
By providing adequate direction and support you will reap the rewards of the positive growth of your team, providing your business with the space and encouragement it needs to grow, evolve and succeed.
Bruce Hakutizwi is the U.S. and International Business Manager for Dynamis Ltd., the parent company of BusinessesforSale.com, one of the largest online global marketplaces for buying and selling small-to-medium-size businesses. Bruce is passionate about helping small businesses succeed and regularly writes about entrepreneurship and business management.