Is your business ready for your freedom?
If, like many others, you wanted to start your own business to give you more freedom, can you honestly say that’s what you’ve achieved?
Hand on heart?
You’re looking for freedom, but is your business ready for you to be free?
Your business is your baby. You’ve nurtured it from nothing to what it’s become today.
You’ve invested your time, your energy and your money into making it a success.
It’s benefited from your constant care. Your undivided attention. Your blood, sweat and tears.
And you’re proud of it. Of what you’ve accomplished. You succeeded – even when some people said it was too risky, it would be too hard, it would take too long to get established.
Your business has grown.
You might even say it’s grown-up.
Where you’ve employed people to work with you, to serve your customers, to look after your team and your business, your business has become increasingly independent. Because you chose well.
You don’t need to make every tiny decision. To do every single thing. You’ve recruited specialists and a capable team to help drive your business forward.
So are you able to take a break this summer without taking several calls each day?
Without checking your emails constantly?
Without picking up your mobile – just in case?
Without your laptop?
Where your loved ones get your undivided attention for the greater part of the day?
Or have you been so busy building your business around you, you forgot to create a way for you leave? For a short time. Or perhaps a long time. Maybe even forever.
Four signs your business isn’t ready for you to be free
Does any of this sound familiar?
Customers that have been with the business for a long time contact you, or call and ask to speak with you, instead of the person you hired to take care of them. Over the every day things. Especially when something goes wrong.
You used to know or do everything yourself. You created the processes and set the standard. You’re not sure everything’s being done the way you did it. The way you would do it if you still had the time. No one knows the business as well as you.
You end up getting involved in decision making. Not just the big, strategic, future affecting decisions, but the smaller ones too.
The business doesn’t seem to move forward if you’re not there to see that everything gets done. Or provide the help and support that your team seems to need.
Don’t let it get out of hand
Don’t wait until you start to feel trapped. Until you don’t enjoy work any more. It becomes a daily grind, slowly wearing you down until your spark has gone.
Do something about it today!
Ask yourself …
Can my team do the jobs I hired them to do?
You hired your team for a reason. Each person. Something about them said “I’m the one you’re looking for!” and you’ve been paying them a salary ever since.
Are they in anyway incompetent? Have they let you down? If the answer’s ‘yes’, then did you deal with it? So they know what you want them to do more of and what you want them to do less of? Were you too lenient or too harsh? Or did you let it slide?
If there’s anyone that’s not performing, use your performance management tools to help them improve. Be clear that you can’t and won’t support dead weight.
If your team are totally capable, no worries, no doubts – that’s fantastic!
If they’re all doing the jobs you hired them to do and you’re still struggling to step away, take a look at your team structure. What support that you need is missing? Having opportunities to step-up and take on more responsibility is great for motivation and productivity – look for people within your team that might be able to fill that gap. They already know the business and will be effective in their new role faster than a new hire.
Do I trust my team with their areas of the business?
So you know your team can do their jobs – but trusting them is different.
It means that you have to let go.
Let them get on with it. Learn by doing. Learn from their mistakes.
Oh, wait! Is that it? You wouldn’t have made that mistake? By making that mistake they’ve let someone down. Set you back.
Don’t confuse trust with caring about your business. Of course you care about your business.
When you trust someone (- and we all have to trust the people around us to some degree otherwise we end up trying to double check everything and frazzle) you rely on them.
To have your back. Support you. Trust goes both ways.
If you don’t trust your team – why not? What’s stopping you? You need to sort that out!
Does my team know this is how I feel?
Whether you trust them or you don’t, they’ll know.
Because you’ll be showing it in what you do.
If you’re insisting on being in on meetings, involved in the small stuff and knowing what everyone is doing all of the time, they’ll have picked up on your lack of trust.
They’ll be wondering what they did wrong. Feeling unappreciated, less motivated, disengaged. While you wear yourself out.
That’s not a recipe for success. Or happiness. Or business freedom.
If you’re letting your team get on with their jobs, showing your support by being there when they need you, catching-up with them to keep track of progress, listening to their suggestions, congratulating them on their successes, then your team will know you trust them. They’ll know you appreciate their skills, talents and experience. They’ll be happier. And so will you.
Have I been clear about my expectations?
When you hired your first team members, you told them what you expect from them, and from working with you daily those expectations will be well known. Then your team expands again and it’s not you that does the training, but the person you trained. Perhaps things have been lost in translation or what matters to you is different from what matters to whoever’s doing the training, but your newest member of staff isn’t getting the same message.
Then people leave and their replacements are trained by someone else and your message gets more diluted.
By documenting your expectations, you’re setting the standard for how things are done. By explaining why things are done this way, your team will know why it matters. It’s not about perfectionism or control. It’s about living up to your customers’ expectations.
Are my expectations realistic?
If you’re expecting people to do the same thing that you do and it’s something that only you can do and took you years to perfect, then perhaps your expectations are too high.
Or if you’re prepared to work all hours to get the job done, but your team don’t have the same passion for your business and only work a little more than their contracted hours and this disappoints you – you’re expecting too much.
Your team are human. They have lives outside of work. People they want to spend quality time with. They can be trained to do things and need time to learn, practice and perfect. Just like you did.
Perhaps you expect your team to care more than they seem to. More about the business. More about their work. It’s unlikely you’ll find someone that will care as much about the business as you do. There’s not as much of them invested in your business as there is of you. They don’t own the business; they’re employed by the business. By creating a great working environment and focusing on your employee experience you can foster caring and create advocates within your team.
Do I share what I know with the people that need to know it too?
As the founder of your business you’re the expert. Chances are you know things that those around you don’t. That knowledge should be shared.
Those working with you will be able to do a better job. They won’t need to come to you with questions because they’ll already have the answers.
See sharing your knowledge as an investment in the future of your business. Not as a loss of control or personal value.
Don’t just share it with one person in conversation. If that person doesn’t share it, then it may well be lost. Create a document, a wiki, where you can add in things when they come to mind, or when someone asks you a question that only you can answer.
Why do customers still come to me?
It may be habit. Perhaps they just really like you. Maybe it’s that dealing with you and having you look after them makes them feel more important; gives them a little more status in their own universe.
Or it could be that they don’t understand that you no longer have time to deal with every customer anymore. Whether that’s because they don’t realise how much your business has grown or because when you handed them over to their new contact they didn’t quite get the message.
It’s a hard message to give – “I care about you, I appreciate your business but I have more calls on my time now and I don’t think I can give you the great service you expect from my business or that you deserve. So let me introduce you to … who’s going to take good care of you from now on.”
If they still insist on coming to you, perhaps you need to find out why by asking them if everything is OK.
What do I get involved with that I’ve employed someone to look after?
You’ve already thought about whether your team can do their jobs, whether you trust them.
It’s normal to care about your business and what goes on. But when caring slips into controlling, you’re spending your time poorly. And chances are time is something you don’t have much of day-to-day.
Why do I still get involved in these things?
It’s not about your team’s ability, it’s not about trust.
Is it about control? That feeling that you’re losing control over your business.
When there are customers you don’t know, team members you didn’t train and struggle to remember their names, niggles and uncertainty over things being done ‘properly’ it can feel like you need to get back in there. Everywhere.
Make sure you’ve got things in place so your business is standing on strong foundations.
Like the houses in the story of the 3 pigs and the big bad wolf, if your business is made of sticks or straw and relies on you to keep standing, it’ll fall down when you walk away. Build it on foundations of clear guidelines and processes it’ll stay standing. Then you just need to maintain what you’ve built already and add to it over time.
Are there things I know I need to walk away from?
Be honest with yourself.
What would happen if I did walk away from them?
What is your worst fear?
How likely is that?
What’s more likely to happen?
Next steps …
✅ Work on stepping back
✅ Check your brand guidelines are up to date
✅ Document the processes you created to ensure consistently high standards
✅ Make sure what you know about your customers is shared – CRM, personas, and so on
✅ Map your customer journeys so everyone knows the part they play in delivering your business’ customer experience and work towards making it even better – together
✅ Show you appreciate your team by focusing on employee experience
✅ Take a break; go away for a few days. Set boundaries about when you can be contacted and when. Relax.