In speaking with the owner of a profitable local company, I learned that she was interested in addressing some key issues so she could return her time and attention to growing the business.
When I asked about the challenges and opportunities she was facing, she sighed and said, “It never ends, the constant interruptions and crises; I fight fires all day long. By the time I get to the strategic stuff, the day is over. And I am tired, so it really never gets done.”
The owner asked for input. I said, candidly but diplomatically, that until she had several trustworthy people reporting directly to her, she was going to be stuck.
I went on to say that she was going to have to learn how to effectively delegate so that she could offload tasks to others so she could focus on implementing strategy. If she didn’t have anyone inside the company she was going to have to bring in experienced leaders from the outside to help her.
Growing your business and taking it to the next level means making some very significant changes from how you currently do things. Some of these changes will be decisions that are difficult to make; some changes will be hard to implement and whatever you do, there will be resistance. Some of your employees may even quit.
Here’s the advice I give my clients:
You set the tone
Why does everyone line up at your door? At some point, you made it clear that employees are not empowered. This is because you don’t trust them to make the same decision you would make and spend the company’s money or resources as you would.
As long as you are the sole decision-maker, things won’t get better and may get worse. Until you make that significant leap of trusting others, you won’t get past the day-to-day.
Trust, but verify
You probably have some employees that are trustworthy.
Give thought as to how you can retain the controls needed to complete tasks on time, on budget and to your desired quality standard. The most important part of the assignment is not harping on the spending but sharing what your specific expectations are. Explain your concerns clearly and then monitor the work being along the way, adjusting as necessary. You have to inspect what you expect.
It’s good to reorganize
Many companies I work with have long tenured employees in key roles. The issue is that while the company has grown, and the world outside the building has changed, often these employees have done neither.
“What got you here won’t get you there” is true. Identify those holding your company back and change the reporting structure so they now report to a new manager, hired from the outside. Make it clear that these tenured employees are not being demoted and their pay is not being cut; they are being re-assigned to a new manager able to teach and mentor with the goal of a stronger contribution being made.
Peanuts are for monkeys
Be prepared to pay the price in dollars for the best people to come to work for your company. While you may undergo sticker shock when you learn how much the best candidates are asking for these days, keep in mind that a single “A” player on your team should be able to do the work of three, and possibly more, employees.
None of this advice may be easy to swallow: getting to the next level is not for every owner. Dreaming and talking about expanding is one thing; actually making it happen is another.
If you want to grow your company, don’t be the person standing in the way.
Ken Keller is an executive coach who works with small and midsize B2B company owners, CEOs and entrepreneurs. He facilitates formal top executive peer groups for business expansion, including revenue growth, improved internal efficiencies and greater profitability. Email:[email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the SCVBJ.