What are the defining characteristics of a successful entrepreneur? Passion, tenacity, and flexibility all make the list, for sure, but how about being a bit of a control freak? That probably figures somewhere in there too. And undoubtedly, the determination to constantly succeed can make it difficult for entrepreneurs to let go of the reins, even a little.
However, learning to loosen your grip marks a coming of age for any business owner; it’s an essential part of growing a business. It’s those who cling on to controlling every last operational detail that are often the ones holding their business back from reaching its full potential.
So why is it beneficial to detach yourself from your precious business venture? The main reason – and it may seem a little at odds with itself – is that while you may be a veritable business-building machine, part of becoming a truly great business leader is recognizing that you possess neither the time nor the expertise to do everything by yourself.
An important step in this process is hiring smart people. Smart people aren’t attracted to work environments where they have an overbearing boss who can’t resist the temptation to meddle; they want to work where they have the freedom to bring their own ideas to the table. Taking a step back, trusting your hiring instincts and giving your people space to have great ideas of their own is incredibly important if you want your business to flourish.
When you have great people who you can trust to get the job done, you can start to focus on what you’re good at. The process of creating a business that doesn’t revolve around your personal input on every matter is incredibly liberating, though relinquishing the power may seem a bit daunting at the time. When you’re not caught up in the finer details, you can focus on the bigger picture: creating a strategy for growing the business further.
How do you put all this into action? The first step is to bring on the right people, ones who are smarter than you (in some respects, anyway) and have substantial skills to bring to the table that you need.
After that, begin building a decision-making structure that doesn’t revolve around your say-so. You may hit some bumps along the way, but granting responsibility to senior team members to manage certain business decisions independently will prevent your company from stagnating. If you find it particularly difficult to cut yourself loose, putting a physical distance between yourself and the business by relocating your personal office can prove to be effective. Having that time away from the office can bring clarity of mind and perspective, as well as being good for your own well-being.
Above all, it’s important to remember that loosening your grip on the reigns doesn’t make you a bad boss, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve given up on your business. If anything, knowing when to step back is one of the most important entrepreneurial skills of all.
Christian Nellemann is a London-based entrepreneur. He has started four successful companies and his latest venture is XLN Business Services, a specialist provider of broadband, card processing, energy and insurance for small businesses with more than 130,000 customers. He is the only person to have won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award twice.