Loosen Up Or Lose Out

There appears to be a gene that we entrepreneurs share, one that gives us a propensity to be control freaks. But unless we learn to delegate and relax our grip on things our businesses can only grow to a point. As a business grows, you must grow with it.
Latest posts by Christian Nellemann (see all)

As an entrepreneur, learning to loosen your grip on things is an important rite of passage that feels unnerving at first, but is essential to maximize the potential of your business, and the people who make it what it is. If you’ve worked hard to build something up from scratch, doing almost all the work yourself, it can be incredibly difficult, and daunting, to extract yourself from the everyday running of things. However, it’s advantageous to detach yourself  for several reasons.

Successful businesses need smart people to grow but the smartest people don’t want to work with their boss breathing down their neck all the time. If you’re too caught up in the intricacies of things, you risk missing the bigger picture. And if you insist on being involved to the point that little to no action can be taken without your input or say-so, the size of your business is limited to the capacity of a single person – you.

As much as you might like to think you’re the ultimate multi-tasker, whose middle name is productivity, you’re still just one person. Without a right hand man or two, at least, and a team of motivated and capable people, you can only take a business so far. Giving your smartest people the space to flourish and positively affect your business is something I learned the hard way, losing some very good people in the process.

At first, recognizing the limits of your own abilities can feel like admitting defeat in some way. But in fact, if at the same time you can recognize the strengths of those around you, and motivate them to put them to good use, it can be liberating. I know now that I can’t be good at everything. So instead of trying to improve my weaknesses, I hire the smartest people I can find to cover them and spend my time focussing on making my strengths stronger still. We never stop learning and, for the benefit of the company and the people that work here, my time is better spent making myself stronger.

There appears to be a gene that we entrepreneurs share, one that gives us a propensity to be control freaks. But unless we learn to delegate and relax our grip on things our businesses can only grow to a point. As a business grows, you must grow with it.

Having laid the foundations with either literal or figurative (depending on your market!) blood, sweat and tears, and built upon them a profitable company, your next job is even harder: get it to the point where the daily running can be passed over, in order to allow you to guide the strategy for further growth, not continue to service existing business.

So how do you do it? You could re-locate, extract yourself from the office and work from another location, leaving your managers to manage. That doesn’t mean just hand over responsibility. Notice I opened with “loosen your grip” not “let go”? Instead it’s about empowering people. You need leaders rather than doers, and they need the right amount of independence from you to take your organisation to the next level. The business owner having to approve everything bogs people down, demoralises them and eventually they leave. If you’re experiencing a high level of senior staff turnover, this might be the problem. Creating a simple organisational chart can show you if you’re occupying too many key positions. Keep the ones you like for yourself and then find the best leaders to fill the remaining positions.

Even spending personal time away from work to allow yourself some perspective is important. It sounds counterintuitive, but even not working can be good for the company, giving you valuable time to improve your own wellbeing as well as the chance to review the state of play from a distance.

Personally, I love building stuff in business – creating new ways to grow or even just new departments. I hate the very tedious, very detailed work that isn’t about building stuff, such as reviewing legal information. I’d like to say that focussing – eventually – only on where I could add the most value while empowering others to also lead the business means I never have to look at another legal document again. But it doesn’t. However, I’m certain it has allowed the business to grow far more than it would have done otherwise. We all have to do things we don’t like sometimes, I guess. Even when you’re the boss.

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