#8: Learning to let go

The founder/owner of a business will eventually need to let go of things and feel okay about it. When you think about change, you can be forgiven for assuming that it’s the province of the big companies. But nowhere is the impact of change felt more acutely than in the small business.

In this article we will explore two situations when letting go is important – adding staff and grooming the business for sale. Naturally, it will be difficult to ever be anything other than a lifestyle business if you cannot come to terms with this, but there are mentors out there who can help you through this process.

More staff

If you are looking to take the first step of adding a second director/partner, or hiring your first employee, you may want to consider some of the following questions to help you feel more comfortable with the process:

    1. What do I really enjoy doing and what am I good at? You may want to consider undertaking some behaviour profiling to help with this. PRISM is a user-friendly tool to do this.
    2. What aspects of the business could I safely and reasonably delegate or pass to someone else?
    3. What aspects of this business are unseen by the client, so I could pass associated tasks to someone else whilst maintaining the client relationship?
    4. What tasks are there that can be clearly defined, are linked to a timeline of some sort, are genuinely achievable and where outcomes can be measured


Selling the business

If your ultimate intention is to sell the business, then the sooner you can come to terms with letting go the better. My good friend Mike Robson at Azure Partners puts this very well when he talks about “Minimising the reliance on owners when selling”:

Many of the business owners we work with have launched and developed their companies from an early stage and have built out their businesses around their individual skill sets, experience, preferences and personalities.

This is absolutely fine for a business in the early stages of development and growth, but it often means that vital parts of the business are run by people who are not specialists in their areas, which will ultimately restrict the organisation’s ability to succeed in the longer term. This weakness is often compounded by the fact that many companies lack a full set of Board and Management level business skills.

All these issues will be brought into sharp focus when you try to sell your business. So if you want to achieve a clean exit, there’s a lot of work to be done in advance of even starting an exit conversation.”

Letting go

Letting go means allocating tasks thoughtfully. Good task allocation will win you precious time, grow and motivate your colleagues, and potentially identify a successor. Poor task allocation will leave you and your staff demoralised and drained – oh and the job probably doesn’t get done either.

Changing your role is not necessarily easy. To make it work you need to change something you do and have the discipline to keep repeating this behaviour until it becomes a habit or a “new norm”.

One of the key leadership skills you will require as the business grows will be communication. Having the ability to craft a robust plan will only get you so far if you cannot inspire people to achieve outstanding results, and you want the focus on outcomes not activities. Command and control has largely died out as a leadership mechanism, so people have to “buy in” to being led, and if you can win them over and get them engaged it can make the difference between the business surviving and prospering.

The habits of good leaders are many and varied, but my favourites are:

  • Communicate their vision, and inspire and motivate others
  • Understand their markets
  • Ask the simple question
  • Take difficult decisions
  • Learn from previous experience, adapt and apply solutions to current situations
  • Behave in an authentic way
  • Set the tone from the top, particularly in terms of business ethics

If you are interested in this aspect of growing your business, take a look at Leading at the Speed of Light by Caitlin and Matthews. I think you will find it inspiring.

For help with letting go, contact me.

Posted in: Growing Businesses

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