Are you taking 150 free days a year?
If the answer is “no,” you need to build a self-managed company.
In the early stages of a business, the entrepreneur is involved in everything. Eventually, after those never-ending hours, the company exits the startup stage and sustains growth up to the capacity of the entrepreneur. This is when the business should be transitioning into a self-managed model, where the entrepreneur works in cooperation with the employees to deliver sustained growth and success. It is also the most maddening, frustrating and rewarding stage of growth — from entrepreneur control to process control. Some people like to call it “from the entrepreneur to corporate structure,” but be careful to not lose your entrepreneurial culture in your company.
It is an interesting conundrum. The entrepreneur has taken everything out of him or herself to get the business where it is, but the only way for the business to continue to grow is if the entrepreneur steps back and lets others take the controls and accountability.
The key elements to becoming self-managed
Every entrepreneur possesses a different capacity, so there is no definitive moment when this transition occurs. However, when you feel ready to significantly scale the business beyond linear growth, your personal capacity, or to get away from the business owning you, then you are ready to pursue a self-managed company. First, recognize this is a process, not an event; you have several areas to develop:
Team synergy — Have the right people on the bus, in the right seats.
Financial stability — Get your finances to a place where they can be managed without you.
Operational consistency — Implement work processes that allow employees to succeed on a daily basis.
Good people are the driving force behind good business processes. To function on processes that time and time again produce the highest quality product or service, you must first invest in your people. Determine and develop their unique ability so they are in the right places, doing the right things and operating freely. Give your employees the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, and the intuition to know when to stop and get help.
Programs to help structure reliable processes
There are guiding practices that can help implement processes to best fit your business’ needs. One is Strategic Coach, a business coaching program with a focus on developing self-management. Analyzing and promoting growth in business and life, the program looks to assist the entrepreneur as they create a self-managed company. Determining the pressing issues in your business and strategizing solutions to address them, Strategic Coach is for the lead entrepreneur and will eventually bring you real freedom.
Another is the Entrepreneurial Operating System, a concept detailed in Gino Wickman’s New York Times bestselling book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business. Applicable to businesses across any industry sector, the EOS model is a set of practical tools that helps entrepreneurs develop the following critical components:
• Vision: The people will perish without vision; set your course and act on it.
• People: Get the right people on the bus in the right seats.
• Data: Develop scorecards to measure the process, not blame the people.
• Process: Implement and document processes for predictable success.
• Traction: Method to effective meetings and engagement.
• Issues: Identify risks and opportunities, and pursue them effectively.
We started SCB Marketing 12 years ago. At that point in time, I handled 90 percent of company sales, oversaw cash management across the board and was deeply involved in all aspects of the business, including conflict resolution, insurance, banking, investments, human resources, client satisfaction, etc. Today, we have developed a sales team that contributes to well over 60 percent of our sales, and our finances are managed by our CFO. We have operational processes in place that replicate best practices on a daily basis, but it is still a process within itself; the journey is a continuation of discipline and accountability.
Leading a self-managed company has a lot to do with trust. As Stephen M.R. Covey wrote in his book The Speed of Trust, “[Trust] is an ability to collaborate, to innovate, to attract and retain people, to satisfy, to engage, to execute your strategy.”
Trust is balanced with accountability. Most people associate accountability with negative connotations such as blame. In reality, accountability is about getting the job done.
A tip to always remember: Sometimes you must subtract to multiply. Stop the bus every 30 days, recommunicate your vision and open the door of the bus and let those off who are not bought in 100 percent. You will only be as strong as your weakest link in the chain of your team.