Learn to let go so your business can grow

In 2016, my client Mariah found herself on a tip that many entrepreneurs can relate to. Her business grew in revenue and rose rapidly after several years of building.

Mariah had been running her company for 6 years, but was spreading so thin that the stress began to show. Long working hours, neglecting friends and family, finding it difficult to find time to have lunch or even visit the bathroom!

The situation was untenable. If she and her business were to survive, things had to change.

Mariah had reached the tipping point where the skills that had brought her to this level were different from those needed to drive her business forward. It happens in any company that grows beyond the launch phase, so if you are in this boat, you are not alone.

You have some choices to make. Here are a dozen more questions to consider so you can determine the best path forward in your company’s life cycle:

  1. Cand do you continue like that? Usually, when you are at this point, the answer is no. And yet, you may feel like you have no other option. You do that. You always have options.

You can no longer pour into an already full cup. To grow your business and have more freedom in your life, you need to let go of the space to create space for something new and exciting to present yourself.

One thing you can let go of: guilt of not doing more. You do enough. You are enough.

  1. Do you work in your company or ON it? Here is where the realization really hits home. If you get stuck in the daily at this point, you don’t have the time or energy to plan for the growth you dream of. Are there things you can delegate? Are there things that simply don’t need to be done anymore?
  1. What incremental changes can you make? This can include rejection of responsibilities, establishing processes that allow your employees to have more self-management and not always involve you. Control alarm: You will have to release the desire to control everything. If you have chosen your people well, your role now turns to a coach and mentor to help them build the confidence to take on more responsibility. You need to leave room for them to do so as much as you may want to step in, or they will never make that transition.
  1. Are you willing to change? At this stage of your business, just changing everyone else is not an exercise. YOU also need to change. Are you willing to do things differently? If you remain obsessed with maintaining the status quo, it will not serve you or your business. The good news is that you Dog change. You can learn and grow. You can become the leader you need to be in your business at this point. As you embrace these changes, your path will be easier.
  1. Are incremental changes enough? Even incremental changes require your time and energy, and you will encounter some of your own problems as you navigate the changes. Are they worth doing, or is it more required? It may be tempting to feel that incremental changes are less threatening and more comfortable for you. But it is rare if you really embrace them, and yet incremental is not enough.
  1. Is your cash flow okay? One of the stress factors in this growth stage is the availability of cash. You will not be able to switch to the next level without the means to do so. So get your cash flow in order. Work with your accountant and mentor to map out a plan. Monitor the situation on a weekly basis and keep an eye on spending.
  1. Are the people you have in your business now the right people to move the business to the next level? You will rely more and more on your employees as you scale. Define what you need them to do and evaluate if they are up to it. If not, do they have great potential and can they be coached?

To help your staff make changes, prepare yourself by providing step-by-step responsibility and, most importantly, authority over discrete areas. Give a sense of pride and ownership over the responsibility you pass on. Discuss your expectations and goals and ask if they have the time, resources and support to get the job done right. Decide in advance how success is measured and rewarded.

Not everyone has to be a leader, idea generator. You might appreciate these traits because you have them yourself. Remember that other properties also have value. Some roles are filled just fine by someone who will consistently do good work as defined for them.

  1. Are you willing to be transparent? You have an important role to play in building your company’s culture. If you want to create a culture where employees feel empowered, attract the best people and create loyalty, you need to be confident. Sharing information does. They will then follow your leader and share as well. This is what leads to innovation.

In order for your employees to know the consequences of their decisions made with the new autonomy you provide, they need to understand the company’s financial situation. You can start off by sharing the thoughts you have about the acceptability of potential new projects or the consequences of taking action on a proposal.

The best time to start sharing financial records is when you are in a positive financial situation. Learn the business financial skills or require your staff to attend a local or online course to help them understand the basics. The more you involve them, the more invested they become and you find yourself with a scheme approaching a partnership.

  1. Do you expect enough? You and your people must be responsible for the success of the project and the company as a whole. Shared responsibility means everyone moves in to get the job done. Look for ways to build camaraderie and connection and actively demand that people contribute by building group performance for compensation.

This accountability must also be extended to you and your leaders. Show people that you are also willing to be held accountable. If you set boundaries and then routinely break them, you show your staff that you are not responsible. Ask them to stick to your decisions. For that to happen, there needs to be an environment of trust that means they can point out where you are not responsible and that will be heard and not punished.

  1. What is your plan? Decide where you want to go: develop strategy and create goals. And here’s the most important part of the plan: make it live in your business by establishing action steps with defined accountability and resource allocation. Be prepared to revise, revise and adjust your plan when the inevitable unexpected occurs.
  1. Is there a creative solution that you have not yet considered or completely considered? I know you are creative because you are an entrepreneur. This is a good time to bring your creative juices to bear the problem. Spend some time going back and consider what you can do to relieve the pressure. Talk to your mentor or coach. Check or call other business owners to see what they did.
  1. Are you the best at leading your business in this next phase of business growth? You are human. You can’t do everything just as well – no one can. This can be a difficult matter for the founders to consider. You are so emotionally attached to your business, not to mention financially bound, that handing over management can be one of the hardest decisions you have ever had to make.

According to a Harvard paper, most entrepreneurs are motivated by money and control. These can directly conflict. I also want to add influence to the mix. You will have to choose between attracting resources to build a more valuable business, both financially and in terms of impact, and to retain control that does not allow you to build such a valuable business. It is the rare founder who can have both.

When making this decision, consider your business. Consider your employees. Consider yourself. That triumvirate is tied to your future success. Many founders relinquish control at this point and allow a veteran corporate builder to step into the CEO role. You may retain key aspects of your current role, such as business development and strategy. You don’t have to give it all away – hold the roles where you can really continue to create value.

Once the decision is made to take this step of handing over the operations to an experienced CEO, the key question becomes how best to make the transition smoothly.

If you want to grow your business, you have to get out of the way. More money and more influence means the founder has to make changes to take on a new role. Let go of the responsibility that weighs you down so you can do bigger things. It can happen gradually.

Does your business mean enough to you to keep it thriving and growing? These questions will help you define how you can do just that.