Sometimes the best thing you can do for your business is to leave it


If you're trying to do it all,

you're doing it wrong.

The job of the CEO is managing the white spaces on the organizational chart. Not trying to do and be everything for that business.

But stepping aside and leaving your baby in the hands of someone else to care for it is one of the most difficult things that an entrepreneur will ever have to do, but it's often exactly what needs to happen for your small business to grow. Trusting your management team and staff to make decisions that you've always made yourself. Who can blame you for thinking this is difficult? After all, it was your idea, and it was you who took the risk to actually start this venture. It was you who invested your savings. It was you who co-signed with the bank and credit card companies and put your personal assets on the line. And it's you who stays awake at night staring up at the ceiling, knot in your stomach, worrying about everything that could go wrong.

There will come a point for every small business owner to begin trusting those around you to make decisions that will have an effect on your business.

If you learn to relinquish some of that responsibility, then one of two things will happen:

1. As your business grows, your time and energy will continue stretching to a point where you will either fall over from exhaustion or begin making costly mistakes yourself.

2. Your business will never mature beyond where you have the ability to take it and never grow beyond where you are capable of overseeing every little detail, micromanaging the business into ongoing smallness and irrelevance.

It's interesting that the very skill that allowed you to actually overcome the small business success odds (80% fail in 5 years) was your micromanagement and personal oversight of every little detail of the business because the reality is, that's what it takes to make a startup successful. Before you have a team of smart people, you have you, your idea, your dream and your will to make that vision a reality. It required you to delve into every little area of the business:

  • what’s our name/brand/logo - I'm on it
  • where will we open our bank account - let me check
  • who is going to make our website - guess I'd better look into that
  • who is going to make our product, provide our service - who else but me
  • who is going to do the sales calls - me again
  • who is going to clean the office - you guessed it

The list never ends, I know.
Launching a venture requires thousands of decisions— mostly small, some large, all made by you. What you did was amazing. Not only did you make all these decisions, but if you made it past the startup stage then you made enough right decisions. Way to go.

There is some Irony in this because your ability to micromanage is what made you successful at the startup stage but your need to micromanage as you grow is the very thing that will keep you from being successful at the next stage of business. If you don’t find a better way it will end up either killing you, killing your business or damming it to perpetual infancy and irrelevance.

But as you grow, as the client base, number of employees, number of widgets shipped all grow to the point where it's impossible for you to make every decision, there isn't enough time in the day. Even if you could, would you want to? Living on the edge of burnout, always striving but knowing that every step forward is one that is going to take away from your life not give you more life, and isn't that the reason you started this crazy business in the first place? to give you more life? and yet your Frankenstein of a creation is the very thing that will end up killing you and keeping you from living the life you want.

Business pundits are forever touting the importance of being flexible and nimble. What that means, though, is that you and your business must be willing and able to let go of behaviors that were successful in the past and are no longer working.

In order for your business to get to that next level, you are going to need to reinvent your business and that starts with reinventing yourself because let's face it, you are your business, your business is you. Your identity is so wrapped up in the business that it's hard to see where one stops and one starts. You need to change your mindset and the way you show up in your business in order for the business to develop and grow.

Mitchell Kertzman, Founder of Powersoft once said,
"When I started [my first] company, it was a one-man business. There was a time when I did every job in this company. I wrote the programs, I sent out the bills, I did the accounting, I answered the phone, I made the coffee. As the company has grown, I do fewer and fewer of those jobs. And that's just as well, because I was less competent at them than most of the people who are doing them now. I'm the reverse of the Peter Principle in the sense that I've finally risen to my level of competence, which is that I don't do anything very well and now what I do extremely well is nothing."

Your job as the founder/leader of the business is to lead it into the future your ability to lead it is directly proportional to your ability to let go of things.

Let me explain.
Your willingness and ability to let go will determine both the potential of your business and the level of freedom that you will enjoy in your life.
Now if you are like most business owners, you are already shouting at the screen saying, "I'm completely ready to let go. I can't find anyone who is willing and able to do it like I do"— let me say, in the most gentle way, that the problem isn't your people or your lack of them. The problem is you and your business. You and your business aren't ready for them yet.
Trust me on this, when you show up differently in your business, slowly, but surely, the leaders will show up. What's that old saying about when the student is ready the teacher will appear, well when the opportunity is ready the leader will appear.

How do you show up differently in your business? Start out by not trying to find another one of you because that won't happen, Cloning is not yet a viable option and I wouldn’t count on that. For years, by default, you have designed the business around you and what works for you and you always ended up frustrated that no one else was able to work it like you did.

Don't expect that people will think for themselves if they have always had you around to do their thinking for them. Stop answering their questions. You've made the business decisions for this business for years. You’re the fastest and the best. Stop it.

Make room for Your employees to make decisions, make room for them to fail, allow them to fail, allow them to see the consequences of their failure, then give them the space to make another decision and possibly fail again. That's how you did it, right? You made thousands of decisions and some were right and some were wrong and some had consequences. How do you expect them to grow into leaders who can lead your business if they never learn the way you did? Yes, you should be able to shortcut some of their mistakes, but you can't eliminate them.

How do you give them space to become leaders?
How about by not showing up? And I know that in your mind the only reason this business still works is that you are always there to make sure that it all works. If that's the life you want, if that's the business you want, then keep doing the same thing because that's what you're going to get.

How about not showing up at all? How's that for a scary thought? Who would step up to fill that leadership vacuum? Will they show up the first day? Nope. The second day? Probably not. Will they show up and immediately do the kind of job that you do? Nope. Just how long did it take you do get to the point of leadership that you are now?

This shift is a hard one to make, but you need to understand that as the leader of the company, your most important contribution is to lead the company into the future— without you.