Why did you go into business?
Was it due to an overwhelming desire to have more control over your work schedule, over the projects you develop, over your destiny?
I pondered this question just last week when I returned home after a long day at the office. As I opened my front door, simultaneously grabbing the letters and flyers precariously overflowing from my mailbox, I instantly noticed an official looking letter from my child's high school. The notice was about our daughter's three unexcused absences (which were all dates reflecting our past family vacation). How is it that the school district can discipline us for taking our kid out of school? We are the parents and have ultimate control over the situation... right?
Business owners often feel the same way about their enterprises and their employees. If you've built a company from scratch, or purchased a company with your hard earned capital, there's an intoxicating feeling of entitlement that you'll have about almost every aspect of your organization. After all, we built it and carry all the liability for it, so surely we have the right to exercise control over it.... right?
Yes and no. Being a successful business owner means you'll have to manage your inner control freak to ensure the success of your company (and the sanity of your team). Here are some helpful tips to consider:
DON'T micro manage your staff, especially your senior leaders. If the method they've chosen to accomplish a task yields the results you've asked for within the timeline you've requested than let it go. Yes it may be a different method then what you've done in the past but there's more than one way to accomplish a task.
DO allow your senior leaders the opportunity to express their ideas, thoughts, and opinions, even if they run contrary to your own. If you've made up your mind in advance, and disregard the contributions of your team, you'll run the risk of turning your shining stars into expensive robots that simply exist to carry out your directives. No creativity. No ingenuity.
DON'T make the mistake of treating your employees as if they are your children. They are not -- far from it in fact.
DON'T meddle in the details when you've hired capable staff to handle those "details" for you. Resist the desire to have total control and instead ask yourself, "What can I do today as the owner to advance the business further?"
DO work hard to balance the professional relationship between you and your staff. Trust and respect are absolutely essential in the owner/employee relationship. Being a "friend" is not. It's ok to have fun at work but just remember, you have the ultimate responsibility for maintaining a comfortable boundary with your team. This is best for all parties involved.
Control isn't a bad word, you just need to balance it properly. An excessive desire to maintain total control will almost always result in your long hours, frustration, and burnout; while abdicating your control can set your operations and company adrift and off course.
Releasing the reigns and exercising an appropriate level of control will be one of the most difficult lessons you'll learn as a business owner and one that I continuously have to work on myself. Remind yourself of the early days when you had to do it all by yourself. Now you have competent, capable staff that can do some of it for you. Learn to savor (instead of resent) this time in your business.
If you have an unspoken fear of losing relevance in your own business which manifests as excessive control, move past that. The day you become completely irrelevant in your business is the day you've outstayed your welcome anyway and instead should focus your passions, gifts, and desires on a new endeavor.
Whether you're developing a new enterprise for the first time or have run a business for years, the way you choose to exercise your control in your business will make the difference your success. For those of you who are experienced control freaks, I encourage you to loosen the reigns and allow the fruits of your labor to truly flourish. You deserve it, now enjoy it!
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.