My business partner Scott and I started our first business in 1994. We were still in college and we wanted to do something “part time” that we enjoyed. We knew by the end of our first year in business that this was more than we could handle. We either had to give up the business, or grab the bull by the horns and really grow our new company.
We learned a lot over the time we ran our companies, The Ferret Store, and later Solid Cactus. We learned that it was pretty easy to get started, but growing wasn’t that easy. The main reason is, there comes a time where in order to grow, you can’t do everything yourself. Learning to delegate, and trust others is not an easy task, especially when it was you who grew the business to where it is today… But the truth is, there is only one of you, and you will encounter people in your travels that are equally as intelligent as you may be. If you believe in your employees, you will reach a point in your growth where you have to let them make decisions. I’m going to touch on a few common mistakes I made over the years, and maybe you will have found yourself in the same position at one time – or maybe you do now.
- When you grow, and hire other people with experience into your organization, you have to be willing to trust that their experience is of value, and be open to change. How we’ve always done things is not an acceptable answer. People change, customers change, everything changes. People resist change, it’s human nature. You need to be willing to think outside of the box.
- As you grow, your business will begin to departmentalize. A billing department will eventually form, some type of customer support will form, and depending on the type of business you are in, many other departments will start to take hold. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is promoting the most loyal employee into a management role. One of the reasons we seem to like promoting from within, as business owners is that these employees know how we think. We’ve mentored them. But do they have what it takes? Do they have the experience to take an inefficient way of doing something we’ve done in the past, and make it efficient?
- Many times, seeking to hire someone from outside the organization will enter your business and have more experience than you do at certain things. Learn from this. Consider this an opportunity, don’t miss out on the opportunity. Check your ego at the door. Obviously you are better at some things than they are, and there will be things that they excel at. This is why you looked for someone with experience in the first place.
- Allow creative people to be creative. Creativity is hard to come by in this world, and creative people often have stupid or impractical ideas, but guess what… One of these ideas may be the next Google or Microsoft. Always embrace creativity, even if the ideas do not seem practical. Creativity is a gift… Once you stifle creative people, they have no desire to share their gift of creativity with you.
- Learn not to impose barriers to progress. I am guilty of this mistake, and all entrepreneurs are at some point. If someone who runs a department asks you for tools, give them the opportunity to use those tools. If they didn’t believe in this tools ability to help grow your business, they wouldn’t have asked you for it. You don’t need to know how it works, you just have to be willing to measure the results. If you don’t give them the opportunity to try new things, there will never be any results to measure, and this is the hump you will have created.
- If you see things happen in your organization that you disagree with, offer your opinion without harsh criticism. Creating a team of management that is afraid to make decisions for the fear of harsh criticism is a great way to create a very inefficient organization. Instead of making decisions that your employees feel are good for the business, you will create an atmosphere of people trying to not be accountable for anything. This is a recipe for failure.
Getting over the hump is about learning to manage the people who are managing your business, giving them the ability to make decisions, and learning to adapt to change.