For many businesses, the main barrier to growth isn't cash flow, staffing or marketing, it's the ability of an entrepreneur to "let go" and let other people do their jobs without trying to control it all. It is a function of delegation, management and leadership skills. If business owners are unable to step back into a leadership position to help the business grow, they will suddenly become their own worst enemy.
What keeps entrepreneurs from growing their businesses?
The answer is simple: Themselves.
The "Gets Hit By a Bus" Scenario
If you're unsure whether you as a business owner are overinvolved, ask yourself this question: What happens if you get hit by a bus? Would the business continue to grow without you? Could the business even continue to operate? If the answer is no, then your business is too dependent on your time, knowledge and abilities.
The Difference Between Having a Job and Running a Company
Highly successful entrepreneurs don't think about it as a job, they think about it as running a company. The difference is that their role is to grow and expand the company beyond them. Their role is about putting people and processes in place so the business can operate long-term independently. Success is often a shift between these two thoughts:
- My job is to do things and get things done.
- My job is to help others do things and get things done.
How an Owner Becomes a Bottleneck
It's a natural progression for a business owner to become the main hub of their business. They built the company from the ground up and they did it by micromanaging all aspects of its growth. They know how to do it and how to do it better and faster. The difficulty is that there is no clear point when it's time to hand off responsibility. At a certain point in its lifecycle, the owner needs to step back or else he or she becomes a bottleneck, inhibiting further growth.
Identifying When a Change is Needed
The challenge in many businesses is recognizing when the operational structure of the business needs to change. If all major and/or minor decisions need to go through one key person, that's a big warning sign. Often times there is also no clear chain of command and there are no job descriptions or clarity of roles and responsibilities. This is a leadership issue, where it's up to the business owner to step back, divvy out power and add some structure to the business.
Three Ways to Resolve this Power Hierarchy
- Start with the open mind that you are going to have to "let go" and let someone else take the reigns. Empowering your team (truly giving them authority) requires that you let them do their jobs. They may not do it exactly the way you would, but ask yourself if it is logical / reasonable and on its way to achieving results. If the answer is yes, then let them keep going.
- Create an Organizational Chart or, more preferably, an Accountability Chart. This helps you and everyone else understand their roles and responsibilities and who to go to for questions, answers and approvals.
- For every question you get, instead of asking yourself "what is the answer?", start asking yourself "who should be answering this question?". Direct your team members to other team members for answers, and start building new connections. Feel free to follow up with that person to ensure they are on the right track. The goal isn't to make people fend for themselves; it's to find the most efficient and effective solutions possible without all action going through you.
While the steps covered above are by no means the end of the road on this topic, these are important first steps in shifting the power in your organization. This is where I am at in my organization, and I look forward to mapping out more details as I progress through my leadership journey.
PS - I would like to thank Linton Sellen for his excellent leadership training series. It was at those sessions that I was awakened to the true understanding of leadership / management and the work needed to get to the next level.
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