What was it that made you want to be an entrepreneur? To take that leap and start your own business?
Most entrepreneurs I’ve talked to say something like:
I wanted to have more control, more freedom to do what I want to do and make my own decisions
I wanted a different lifestyle that didn’t conform to the usual corporate job/work
I wanted to create a legacy for myself and my family
I had a passion/idea for X and wanted to see where I could take it.
I wanted to start a movement around X
As entrepreneurs we are drawn to start our own businesses because we want to have control, to be independent, make the decisions, take risks and make our own rules (or break them).
The irony is that some of the reasons we start our own businesses are possibly the very things that can challenge us if we want to build our business to greater heights. The paradox of entrepreneurship is that if you want to grow your business you have to let go. Specifically, you have to let go of control.
And yet it’s the one thing that many entrepreneurs don’t do well. They don’t realize the potential of their business because they get in their own way. They don’t make the transition from controlling everything to letting others get it done for them and as a result many businesses fail to grow or just fail.
So why is it so hard to let go of control?
Well for starters, it’s just plain scary. When it’s your business, your clients or customers that you’ve built and worked so hard to develop and nurture, it’s not easy to hand that over to someone else. While entrepreneurs are typically risk takers, putting your business – your “baby” in the hands of anyone else may seem like too big a risk to take.
Even if you have a capable team it’s hard to shake the need to stay in control. You might find yourself doing things like following up constantly to check their work (more often than you realize), “joining them” in client meetings, or having everything go through you for approval – right down to what type of coffee to order. It’s hard to trust others to take care of what you have built, to take care of your clients and create the ideas, products or services for your business.
So if it’s so hard, why do it? Why not continue to stay in control of everything in your business? The straight answer is that your business will not grow and reach its full potential if you don’t. At some point you will run out of capacity if you aren’t there already. You only have so much time and personal resources to develop and manage your business and you will reach a time when you realize you can’t be all things to everyone. Which brings us to the next question – when should you consider giving up some control?
Here are some signs that it’s time:
- You are profitable but working crazy hours. You can’t remember the last time you took a holiday. You are at a point where your business has become your life and you don’t know where you end and it begins;
- You are struggling/striving through tasks and projects that would be better suited to others who have the expertise. You aren’t making the most effective use of your time and energy. You aren’t focused on what you do best because you don’t trust anyone else or don’t want to pay for the help;
- You are missing or loosing opportunities because you don’t have the resources, time, or energy to take them on or you are so busy doing the work you don’t step back to take the longer view and see where your business can go;
- If you have a team, you may be complaining that they don’t step up or take initiative, or you may be experiencing high turnover. You are continually hiring what seem like capable people but after a while their performance starts to slip and you find yourself having to tell them what to do all the time or step in and take over;
- You may be starting to lose the passion you once had for your business because you are trying to juggle too much and are feeling burned out. Selling beads on a beach in Costa Rica is looking good to you right now.
If you are at the point in your business where you are experiencing any of these, it’s time to let go of control. As a reformed control freak myself, I can tell you that managing the balance between controlling and letting go of aspects of your business is complicated. But if you focus on playing to your own strengths and, build a great team that complement what you do best, and let them do their jobs, your business can grow as big as your vision will take it.
Catherine Meyer is CEO and Founder of Catalyst Leadership Solutions. She provides coaching and leadership solutions to a wide range of businesses and industries. Her focus is on helping business owners and entrepreneurs develop their strength in leading people so that they can build their capabilities, enhance growth, and maximize results for their business If you manage a team as part of your business or are in the process of creating a team, Catherine can help you develop your leadership strength to ensure the success of this phase of your growth.