PERSONAL FINANCE: Let go and let grow


Last weekend, I watched clips of US President Barack Obama on social media taking a shot at African leaders who have refused to step down.

These leaders have become addicted to the power and honestly believe no one else is equipped to do their job. It gave me the impetus to write this article because some of us who believe we are entrepreneurs actually do the same thing.

In last week’s article, I mentioned that one of the things I wish someone had told me is that you grow when you work yourself out of a job.

This rationale flies in the face of traditional corporate culture, but if you do want your business to go to the next level you need to let go of it to some extent.

If you believe you are the alpha and omega of your business, it is going to be extremely limited. Here are some of the signs that mean you are not letting go.

1. You carry the cheque book around with you. Firstly, this encourages indiscipline. Many business owners do carry around the cheque book because they are also using the business account for personal use. It gives you leeway to withdraw money at any time.

Rather than budgeting and paying yourself from the business, you get our sense of comfort from having the cheque book.

This means there is no order and funds that should have been used for the business are used for personal expenses. Carrying the cheque-book around also indicates that there is no one who regularly keeps track of the cash flow.

This knowledge is limited to you because you probably also write all the cheques. Instead of spending time doing things that actually grow the business like getting clients, you are spending this precious time hovering over the cheque book. Yes you will have total control over your funds, but you will also ensure you have very little funds to have total control over. Let someone else handle the money.

This will not only release your time, but it will also give you a sense of accountability. It is so much harder to make random personal withdrawals when you know someone will check it and account for it. Share the information. You should never be the only one in your business who knows about the numbers and how they work and come together. How will people know what to strive for?

When you tell them to keep expenses down, what are you really talking about? What will be their motivation to do that? Granted it might not be everybody who receives the same level of information, but do not keep information to yourself.

2. You are afraid to pass on information and/or teach people to take up bigger roles. This happens because the business owner is afraid the people he trains will leave: move to the competition or start their own businesses.

Can it happen? Yes. Has it happened? Yes. Yes, it is risky to cede some roles to your employees, but remember you are doing that so that you can concentrate on the bigger agenda for your company. If you don’t do it, you will stay at the same level. I think staying at the same level is in fact the bigger, longer term risk.

Someone who chose to take the risk in the same industry as you may wipe you out. It may also happen that when you expose people to different roles and responsibilities, you in fact motivate them to step up.

A student who attended our entrepreneurship programme actually tried this out. He spent time training his employees and allowing them to take up bigger roles in the company.

He actually allowed them to go meet clients without him. The result is that they are now highly motivated and he was able, for the first time, to go on holiday for two weeks. People can do a lot more than we usually allow them or give them credit for.

As people take up roles that you previously held, your responsibility as a leader is to ensure processes are being documented so that if they do choose to leave, the transition, though not easy, is not a complete disaster.

3. You are bigger than your business brand. When people like a particular doctor, they only want to go see that doctor. When the doctor is not available, they will come back later when he/she is available.

When you start business it is sometimes like this. It is very easy for your ego to get inflated over the fact that clients only want to speak to you or meet with you. However it is extremely limiting for your business.

You only have a certain amount of hours per day. Your clients must also be meeting other people who work in your business, but with the same experience.

Compare the doctor’s services to getting on a flight to another country or town. In this case, you have no idea who the pilot is; you chose the flight because you liked the airline and not because a specific pilot was flying the plane.

This is how your business should run. You cannot be the doctor that everyone wants to treat them, let your business be an airline with different pilots to fly the passengers.

Don’t be the person who is required at every meeting, to address every client issue, or do all the marketing.

Build your brand so that it is bigger than you or any other individual in the business. Let your business become the airline and not the pilot who flies the plane.