Run your business better—by giving up!

If you feel like you’re at capacity, constantly making the same decisions, troubleshooting, fire-fighting and just too hands-on to take a break, chances are you need to give up.

Not the business—though I often have clients come to me just about ready to throw in the towel—but all the day-to-day tasks that aren’t really management business.

Most business owners get to this point—once upon a time it was just you and perhaps a partner, doing absolutely everything. As the business grew you built a team, but forgot—or didn’t know how—to let go of the reins.

Think about this: does your business run into problems when you’re not there? When you take a holiday, do you also take a laptop and mobile so that you won’t come back to chaos? Do you still feel like you have to do everything yourself, or micro-manage to get things done ‘properly’? Are you working every hour you can find, even on evenings and weekends? Do you personally have to solve every problem?

If that sounds familiar then no wonder you’re about ready to quit.

The good news is, there are practical and proven ways to let go of the reins safely, without also letting go of your oversight and ultimate responsibility as owner.

Here are the basics:

  • Taking one kind of activity at a time (e.g., sales reporting, stock ordering, issuing a media release) ask yourself how the processes around it could be improved. It might be that it’s not clear who has the authority, or that staff aren’t clear on what the ‘default’ action is—which is why they always come to you.
  • With your team, devise a set of ‘default’ decisions that each staff member can make, and develop a line of escalation for non-default decisions—relatively few should come to you.
  • If you haven’t already got one, develop a reporting process so that key information about the business lands regularly on your desk in the easiest way to digest. Regular reporting will reduce your stress as you’ll feel fully informed, and it will also enable you to retain oversight as you step back from the day-to-day decisions.
  • Make sure the systems are documented and available to everyone:
    • Put them in writing, as simply and clearly as possible.
    • File them logically—make it easy to look up processes by role or by decision.
    • Ensure that decisions that entail spending money have limits linked to the company budget, and when setting the limits weigh up risk against the efficiency of giving staff the autonomy to make purchases.
    • Ensure staff input is clearly defined—for example you are likely to want the financial controller to involve the operations and IT managers in a software purchase.
    • Make sure all decisions are covered—even issuing a statement to the media can have disastrous consequences if done badly!

As you establish the new decision rights and reporting framework, make sure that your staff understand theirnew rights and responsibilities, and that they know where to find the documented procedures.

A documented and logical system of decision-making rights and lines of reporting will take a surprising amount of weight from your shoulders. It will also give your staff some autonomy, which will not only relieve you of a lot of the day-to-day issues but will also make your team more efficient and empowered in their roles.

So if you feel like giving up, take a good look at what you can give up so that you—and your business—have the capacity to grow and thrive.

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