Creating a Business that Works Without You

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” -Colin Powell, Former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


Many business owners suffer from founder syndrome – that common malady that has them trying to do too much and refusing to delegate work to employees.  This is probably the single biggest inhibitor to growth– the failure of the owner to get out of the way, and to empower their team.  Too many owners feel that it is their responsibility to lead, to manage and to do because they believe it is simply easier to do everything themselves. By failing to delegate, the founder/owner ends up being over-stressed and in many cases overwhelmed and seemingly underpaid. 

The underlying problem is that most business owners believe that they are responsible for taking care of their team, their customers, and their business all on their own.  The most effective way to grow your business profitably is to adopt the following Cycle of Business model:  Owner -> Team -> Customer -> Business -> Owner.  In plain English, this can be read as the owner sets the team up for success, enabling the team to take care of customers, which leads the customers to take care of the business with repeat orders and referrals, which results in the business rewarding the owner with profits and success. 


Strive to Become Dispensable Ultimately

The goal of the entrepreneur is not to run a successful business but to own a successful business. The idea is not to work in a profitable business but to work on a profitable business. Hands-on leadership and business building is necessary. Nobody creates the perfect organization without hard work and an investment of dedicated time and energy. But by setting the bar higher – not just shooting for profits but for passive income – an entrepreneur can actually reap superior rewards. Passive income is money made by putting investments to work on one’s behalf. Entrepreneurs should actively and passionately pursue passive income. Then they can walk away from their businesses and live the kind of lifestyle that others – who work to remain inside their organizations and on the premises of their stores and offices – can somehow never find the time to experience. A common belief is that the fast track to success as a worker is to become useful to the point of being indispensable and irreplaceable. While that is true, it is an approach tailored to those with the mindset and attitude of the employee – and it runs contrary to the vision of the successful entrepreneur. To be a success, an entrepreneur must evolve from being self-employed to working as a manager, to playing the role of owner and business leader. An entrepreneur on the road to success needs more independence, not more reasons to maintain a hands-on role. By striving to become the kind of owner who can walk away from a business and have it continue to run smoothly, the talented entrepreneur reaps the benefit of freedom – freedom to choose how or whether he works in the business. 


Create Systems and Leverage People and Process

For a company to run well while the owner is away, it is important to have comprehensive business systems in place. The first step in creating effective systems is to clearly delineate job descriptions and roles and then cross-train employees creating a flexible, and learning organization. To ensure that all the bases are covered it is necessary to understand the basic workflow of the organization and then map it out from start to finish. With the visual aid of a process flow chart it is much easier to detect gaps and oversights and prioritize actions. Furthermore, it pays to invest in technology, and to ensure that employees have the training they need to use it effectively and efficiently. Beyond robust processes, a business must rely on motivated and capable people to deliver consistent value in the product/ service offered. Documenting the role, responsibilities and accountabilities of each position, team, and functional department can go a long way to enhancing productivity and improving overall quality. All jobs required to run the business should be documented in a user-friendly operational manual. The manual should be used to train new people, cross-train existing employees, inform managers, or as documentation of the business system that can be franchised or sold. Systems that are self-sustaining can be the biggest asset of a company because they increase production while decreasing labor content. For the owner, that means steady growth of profitable sales and a diminished need to oversee and manage routine operations.


Appoint Someone Else the President

Once the pieces are in place, the stage is set, and the momentum is underway, the time comes for the entrepreneur to step away and put somebody else in charge. Ideally this transition is planned well in advance, so that capable and trustworthy people have already been schooled and prepared to take the helm. With others handling management and administration, an entrepreneur can begin to lead the business into new territory and venture into new investments.  By handing over the reins, an owner can move on to a higher level of personal fulfillment and financial rewards, and those who do so realize the power of real freedom. And of course the hand-off cannot occur until the owner has become dispensable by developing people and processes that allow the business to run without him.


Patrick Leask
Tampa, FL
Award Winning Business Strategist and Coach.
Helping Professional Service & Project Based Businesses Accelerate Growth.
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