As a business leader, sometimes you have no choice but to drive business operations, but that shouldn’t become a habit. You can be involved in the high-level aspects of running a business while knowing when to step out of the weeds as a leader. Otherwise, you will only hinder your chances of scaling the business beyond your efforts.
What’s wrong with being the lifeblood, heartbeat and brain of your business? For one, your business won’t be able to exist without you, which will create challenges when it’s time for you to make the transition. Potential buyers will not be interested in acquiring a business that depends on a single individual for its survival, and employees will be less likely to retain long-term loyalty.
Being too involved in all aspects of your business operations management processes also limits your organization’s ability to operate effectively. It’s hard to optimize processes when they’re all headed to the same source, and the feeling that every decision is on your shoulders will only lead to burnout. Stepping back and allowing your team or direct reports to take on some of these responsibilities will ultimately allow your organization to run more efficiently while freeing you from some of that burden.
If you decide to stop being the cornerstone of your business, you will also be able to view your system more objectively. You may find that you no longer need to work more than 50 hours per week. You will also be more engaged in running a business effectively, where leaders and employees foster a corporate culture of innovation and teamwork. To find out if you are too tied to the running of your business, look for the following red flags in your current business operations.
1. Everything requires your signature
You’re a productivity bottleneck if you need approval on everything from invoices to paychecks before they’re sent. While this may be manageable and understandable from a quality assurance perspective when you’re running a boutique practice, it only weighs on the business when you start to grow. Lee Iacocca, the former Chrysler executive, used to explain that he hired people smarter than him and then walked out of their way. If your work structure makes you a real babysitter, you undermine the morale of your employees and the potential for growth of your business.
Begin by reassessing all chains of command that lead directly to your office. Your organization will run more efficiently if management doesn’t get into the habit of being a bottleneck. Give employees the space and means to complete their tasks unhindered to optimize processes and prevent tasks from piling up on your desk. When you empower your employees to make big-picture decisions, you create an efficient and desirable organization not only for future employees, but also for potential buyers.
2. Operations Crash When You Walk Away
Does the idea of taking even a three-day weekend make you cringe? It’s time to take a different approach. You should be able to go away for a few weeks without worrying, but don’t feel bad if you can’t. Most owner-run organizations leave all major decisions to the founder. The solution to this problem is to regularly delegate your management team to take ownership of specific responsibilities that you would normally take on.
Additionally, you should start creating standard operating procedures and similar documents for processes across the organization. Your goal should be that any employee, whether they’ve been with them for years or months, can understand and use your specific systems right from the start. After all, potential buyers won’t give your organization a second glance if you are the only source of documentation. Over time, it will be easier for you to trust your team and documented processes, and ultimately enjoy that three-day weekend.
3. You don’t have a succession plan
A UBS survey shows that 48% of owners have not developed their succession plans. Yet research from The Exit Planning Institute shows that 75% of homeowners want transition of their businesses within 10 years. These figures show a serious disconnect. Without a founding CEO succession strategy, your business could collapse when you leave. After scaling your dream, you don’t want that to happen. Instead, talk to an advisor about succession planning. Find out how to leave a leading position in the most practical, prudent and profitable way.
Not only will your business have a better chance of succeeding without you at the helm, but your employees will also feel an increased sense of job security. By taking a higher view of your business, you can reap the benefits of objectivity. As a leader, you should run a business, not work. Succession planning in advance will help you achieve this goal.
4. The company has no liability broadcast
From sales to marketing, you run it all. Your personality and energy keep customers coming back. In fact, you insert yourself into all the important sales calls and marketing meetings. However, since you are so entangled in the smallest details, you end up hurting your business’s revenue stream. Sure, you can bring in customers, but every hour you spend playing the role of negotiator or quality control specialist wastes your time on other tasks that only the CEO can do.
Ultimately, these constant sources of stress will wear you down and jeopardize the success of your business. Instead, work to create reliable, decentralized systems that harness the collective intelligence of your employees and team members. Allowing your employees to hone their talents and build confidence will allow your business to grow and remain successful even after you move on to other businesses.
Do you think you are driving your business? The good news is that you can start reversing your course immediately. When you do, you might be amazed at how much it improves your business culture, operations, and results.
Jeff Mead is the founder and CEO of MEADEa management consulting firm.