Want to Grow Your Business? Figure Out What You Suck At
BY Scott Elser
Stop telling yourself that no one can do things as well as you can. You're wrong, and it's impeding your growth.
When I get together with other founders of growing businesses, one issue invariably comes up: scaling. I bet you know what I’m talking about. When you’ve built every aspect of a business it is difficult to find anyone who can do things as well as you do. Right?
Wrong. Your problem isn’t finding people who are as capable as you. Your problem is figuring out how to let go—and how to get your ego out of the way.
Many of my early hiring decisions were based on finding someone who I felt brought the same sensibilities and strengths to the job I did. That was a mistake. Often the results were not what I hoped for. New hires struggled to deliver to my satisfaction in the areas I am strongest. And I struggled to step away to let them achieve success on their own terms in other areas.
It wasn’t their fault; it was mine. I was looking for the wrong people. What I really needed were people whose strengths complemented my weaknesses. Then I could redefine my own role to play toward my strengths and get out of the way to let them take charge in the areas they were best suited for.
Learning to let go takes time. My experience has led to a few basic rules of hiring:
Never hire a “Mini-Me”. This is huge, and I learned it the hard way. It’s natural to surround yourself with people who share your strengths. You’re a numbers person, so you hire someone who speaks your language. You’re strategic, so you gravitate to someone you hope is equally able to drive big thinking. But here’s the rub: You will simply never find anyone who does what you do best the way you do it. And since it’s your strength, by definition you will feel that the way you approach things in this area is the right way. Instead, hire people with complementary skills.
Know what you suck at. Entrepreneurs often feel they can be great at many things and use common sense for the rest. But listen when I tell you this: You suck at something. Everyone does! While it’s an unnatural exercise for a confident founder, a huge part of effectively growing past your own capacity is take a realistic look at not what you do best, but what you do worst. Armed with this self-awareness, you can search for people with specific skills. Find those who can do what you suck at better than you can, empower them with your full support and ensure that they regularly update you on where they are. That way you can check that mental box and know everything is covered.
Empower and engage. I always have the same conversation with those who report to me. It goes something like this: “I will never micromanage you unless I believe there is a problem. That means letting me know of problems before they become infernos, and letting me know of issues before I get clients calling me about them. Let me help you fix issues before the wheels fall off and it’s too late.” That’s easier said than done. No matter what you tell people, they will still do everything possible to deflect blame. It’s important to make a point of being available, and avoid biting people’s heads off when they do come to you with issues.
SCOTT ELSER is co-founder of NY-based
Launchpad Advertising, a full service ad agency focused on redefining market opportunities for brands in transition. A member of the 2012 Inc 500, Launchpad has helped drive growth across a wide range of businesses, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Scott is a marketing consultant, entrepreneur and business coach who spent more than a decade on the marketing team at AT&T as well as holding executive posts at McCann and Grey before opening Launchpad in 2007. @scottlpa