A lot of business owners feel compelled by advice from business coaches and prominent entrepreneurs to work more “on” their business than “in” their business. The advice is often that business owners and senior managers should leave the day-to-day running of the business to their colleagues, and concentrate their energies on business development, marketing, and strategy.
I don’t dispute the need to work on growing your company—these tasks are high priority for any business, particularly as it matures. However, I believe you must also play to your strengths and ensure you follow your personal ambition. Giving up your place in the company and the things you love about your job to move into working on your business full-time may not be the best approach for you.
Consider this: if you’re good at sales and you enjoy the process, why not let everybody else do everything apart from sales? if you have a flair for people management, why not move into a human resource (HR) role instead of making an HR hire or subcontracting to an HR consultant? In smaller MSPs and consultancies it’s likely you have technical skills and experience that are difficult to recruit for and replicate in your staff.
Working in your business and maintaining a day-to-day presence does bring some risks. For instance, if you hold on to too much control of the day to day running of the company then family vacations become a real problem. It will certainly put a stopper in your plans of taking a six-month sabbatical to paint boats in the Bahamas. Even attending a conference becomes a tug-of-war between your attendance and your commitments in the office.
This also influences acquisitions. if you're looking to sell your company but you're still a critical ingredient of the day-to-day operations, that can put off potential buyers.
It’s also possible to damage staff morale by either being unwilling to relinquish control or delegating responsibilities but not providing employees with the authority to carry those responsibilities out. If you’re holding on to roles within your company—not because you enjoy them—but simply because you feel you are more experienced or more capable, then perhaps you need a little more faith. I’m reminded of a quote from Bob Iger, the former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, in his book “The Ride of a Lifetime” (which I highly recommend). “Value ability more than experience, and put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them.” Create an environment that nurtures growth in your team. Give them the authority to make decisions for themselves and they will appreciate the support and the confidence you have in them.
It’s all very easy for me to sit at my keyboard and lecture on doing only what makes you happy. The truth is, it’s impractical for most of us to oversimplify like this. We all have responsibilities—towards our customers, colleagues, friends, and families—and those responsibilities compete against one another in complex ways. It may help to look at yourself as a resource. You should make use of that resource for as long as your business needs you to.
In summary, be mindful of retaining too many roles and lacking courage to delegate, but if you enjoy particular tasks then keep doing (some of) them!
To start you working on your business more, sit for a few minutes and write down one or two roles you most enjoy in your day-to-day work. Then write down the one or two things you enjoy the least and start working towards relinquishing those roles to make time for working on your business.
Simon Beckett is the MD of Dynacom IT Support Ltd.
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