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Like almost every entrepreneur I know, I started my first company with one employee. Just me. I was solely responsible for all facets of the organization: sales, marketing, operations, billing, service and IT. No wonder I was better at some of these things than others, and some I just didn't like at all. I also knew that I couldn't bear to cast all the roles myself without burning out. When the time came to bring in reinforcements, I was pumped.
One of the great joys of owning a company is watching it grow, and that means hiring new people: talented people who are better than you in their personal areas of expertise. But beware. If you don't trust them to do their job well, and if you don't empower them to do their job independently, you'll work three, five, or even ten times harder than necessary – with no return investment for the time micromanaged get lost.
Related: How to Better Delegate and Become a Great Leader
To start a business, you just have to learn to let go
It doesn't sound intuitive. It's easy to believe that you and the company you started from the ground up are one and the same. But just like a carpenter needs an electrician and a plumber to build a house, it takes a team to build a thriving business. Additionally, you need to trust these team members and empower them to lead.
If I were hit by an ice cream van tomorrow, my business would survive. There are processes. There is an organizational structure so that everyone knows who is doing what. We talk about our core values and principles and convey them so that everyone on the team knows why we do things the way we do.
If, unexpectedly, you were unable to cater to your company's needs, could you say the same thing? Also, be aware that if your ultimate goal is to someday sell and get picked up by a bigger company or venture capitalist, would you need to be included in the deal? Note: You probably want to buy a business, not a person.
If you feel tense at the very thought of letting go, take a moment to breathe. Imagine what it would be like to focus only on the things that you are best at, the tasks that give you energy, and leave the rest in the very competent hands of your talented and well-trained leadership team. Imagine working fewer hours and getting better results because the people who are smarter than you in certain areas are doing those tasks smarter.
Related Topics: 6 Best Practices for Managers to Use to Empower Your Workforce
Where should I start?
Suppose you are in the early stages, growing, and ready to hire new employees. How do you start and what do you let go of first? Good question.
Do a thorough check on how your time is spent each week:
How many hours a week do you devote to the various business areas?
Which one are you best at and what gives you energy?
Which tasks are your weaknesses and which use up your energy?
When you can pass on something that you are not very good at to someone who is fantastic at it, your work week will turn into a much more fulfilling and productive one.
Still, many founders struggle with the responsibility to reassign responsibilities to others. It is in the nature of the entrepreneur to step in when our employees are doing something other than what we have done. It is an easy trap to feel that we are the only ones who can do what needs to be done right.
Steve Jobs explained it so well, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." a lot of trust and openness.
If you hire strategically and choose wisely (or if a highly competent HR manager hires other highly competent people), you are taking time to listen and learn. They are probably very smart and talented. Trust their experience, respect them, and empower them to try things out their own way. Set clear expectations and goals. Collect data from the results to test, but you need to be open to make changes. Otherwise, why bother hiring someone in the first place? My philosophy is to hire, exercise, and then get out of the way.
Related: Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein used the concept of "no time"
This is how you help your employees to be successful
A helpful tactic is to make sure everyone who joins your team goes through a full onboarding process. Equip each employee with in-depth knowledge of the organization: history, culture, philosophy, systems and metrics for decision making. This knowledge is vital to your business as you now have 100 percent of your employees on the same page and know which indicators to track before taking action. Basically, you now have an army of mini-you empowered who always act in the best interests of the company because they understand the basis of those interests.
Communication and accountability are critical to building a solid foundation for your remote team:
Communicate the vision and purpose of the company.
Make the organizational structure, roles and responsibilities known to everyone.
Set up a training location for shared corporate knowledge.
Create OKRs (Goals and Key Outcomes) as a team and monitor output metrics.
Use a project management platform to make sure the team sees the big picture and each person knows the components they are responsible for.
All of my team, individual, and company-wide meetings are conducted through Zoom for personal interaction.
With clear communication and specific accountability, everything will run smoother and you will have your finger on the pulse of the company.
Related: 4 Essential Features for Large Remote Workers
Stand back and watch the company grow
Now for the fun and challenging part. Step back. Really step back (take another deep breath if you have to) and embrace a culture of trust. To do this, staff must be given the authority they need to be able to make decisions without having to ask for the green light. Strong leaders can only run their departments if those departments are able to independently reach conclusions and then act on them.
Of course, some critical decisions need to go all the way up, but only those that have a significant impact on the company's operations. You may not have to deal with font pairing, first rounds of internal interviews, or routine website maintenance. You may need to weigh strategic planning, key customer acquisitions, and final budget approvals. The more you show your employees that you trust, support, and value their judgment, the more confident and engaged they will become. And if you delegate and let that trust grow, your company will grow too.
Obstacles to delegation are primarily trust, power and control. By accepting delegation as a growth necessity, you can practice it like any other skill. Practice trusting the employees you hire, gradually sharing your power, and relinquishing control of day-to-day operations. Once you master these things, as contradicting as it sounds, you will find freedom. Less working hours. Less weight on your shoulders when sharing the load. More hours for the things that are meaningful and worthwhile. More business growth.
Surround yourself with the best people, share your vision and learn to trust your team. Strengthen your greatest asset – your employees – and hold them accountable. Focus on your unique business skills. Go ahead: find the freedom and watch the leadership grow by letting go.