One common trait in small business owners/executives is that they are not afraid to get their hands dirty. If there is a technical problem, the office needs to be tidied or the finances need to be reviewed, they are hands-on kind of people.
Take *Yvonne (not her real name) for example. She has built up her company from just herself to 20 employees and now her business is on the cusp of growing in a new market. Over the years, it has been customary for Yvonne to meet with clients and respond to their queries and complaints as a part of her daily work. She also keeps track of nuts and bolts of the company (HR, IT, finances, etc.).
Yvonne is generally an upbeat and energetic person who enjoys positive relationships with her team and other employees. However, she noticed two things wearing on her. The first, she feels drained from trying to do all of her usual work plus business development. The second, she feels limited in scheduling time to think and act more strategically regarding expanding in a new market and looking into possible mergers and acquisitions.
She knows she cannot be all things to all people, no matter how hard she tries.
“I can’t do what I usually do”
One consistent issue pops up for small business owners and executives when it comes time to growing their company. That is, “my role is changing and I can’t do what I usually do.” It becomes apparent that the only way the business will grow successfully is if the owner/ executive is willing to redefine his/her role, delegate some of the work and commit to the strategic plan.
Many times this requires the business owner/ executive to meet with prospective customers, partners, investors and others for business development. When the business is growing internationally, this is even more essential. Your small business is growing but will you grow with it?
Check your management style
If you are like Yvonne, you might find yourself worrying that your sales people will not handle your customers the “right” way or that the team will make decisions that do not include your experience or wealth of information. Underlying all of this is that your employees are not you. Your management style could communicate that you do not trust them nor believe that they are truly competent.
Some business owners and executives adopt (mostly unconsciously) a patronising “I know best” type of management. This style has its uses in situations where a business is failing but it is a hindrance in a growth situation.
This is a good time to ask yourself some questions:
- How do I evaluate talent?
- On a scale of zero to ten (zero being complete mistrust; ten being complete faith), how do I rate each person on my team?
- What do I believe would happen if I were less involved with the technical, customer and/or day-to-day operations?
- How do I know my beliefs are true?
- What can I continue to do as part of my team and staff?
- What do I need to change to support my team and staff performing at their best?
Take heart though. You are not doing things wrong. Simply put, circumstances have changed. You and your team designed a plan to grow the business and there are adjustments to be made.
Make time to prepare everyone, including yourself
This is an exciting time! It is always fun to see people’s faces light up when they talk about a growth plan. However, it is easy to get discouraged when it comes time to do the everyday implementation.
All growth plans are change plans. Consider how people adapt to change. They need information plus time to review and improve their skills.
A lot of preparation starts with you
- Can you clearly articulate your vision in simple terms?
- How well do you tolerate mistakes (your own and your team/staff)?
- If you were unable to be in the office tomorrow, who would understand how to work with customers?
These are just the beginning questions of the preparation process. You may discover that scheduling a regular team meeting will eliminate a lot of anxiety and misinformation. Sharing the business goals with everyone in the company is another way to communicate how the company is expected to grow.
Find out what is underneath
During the preparation time, there are opportunities for self-discovery when you take the time to talk with your team about the impending changes.
Yvonne discovered that one team member had a horrendous experience with a previous company that grew too fast. This past experience coloured how the team member invested in taking on a more in-depth role. Yvonne’s intial reaction had been to discount the criticism and foot-dragging.
We sometimes forget that we bring biases from previous experiences and they heavily influence our behaviour. By engaging with this particular team member, Yvonne was able to pinpoint how she needed to address her her reluctance to trust the intelligence and skills of her team and her communication skills needed some refinement.
Like Yvonne, you cannot do what you used to do. Acting more like a CEO and less like a simple member of the team is part of redefining your role. Each stage of a growing company has its own qualities that require certain skills from its leader(s).
Will you grow with your small business?
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