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The Fine Art of Firing Yourself

In the beginning, you had to be your whole company. But if you ever want to grow beyond a one-person show, you need to learn how to let yourself go.

In the early days, you are many things to your business: founder, chief executive officer, sales manager, strategic planner, marketing guru--probably even the resident toilet scrubber. 

But unless you plan to remain a one-person shop, at some point you're going to need to shed each of these roles. In other words, you need to "fire" yourself.

How do you know when it's time?

Kerrie MacPherson, a principal at Ernst & Young, writes in the Harvard Business Review, it's probably time when you find yourself "spending too much time working in your business, and not enough on it." At that point, it's time to build a dream team and start focusing on big-picture responsibilities.

Read below for four tips MacPherson says will help you fire yourself and delegate important tasks to your new team.

Know your most important role.

"Your time and attention should be reserved for those few things that only you can accomplish. For many entrepreneurs, this means focusing on the most valuable sales and marketing opportunities--meeting with key prospects and building markets for your product or service," MacPherson writes. "If you, too, need to focus on being the face of the company, then tap into others for help with the rest."

Hire growing professionals.

Stay away from one-trick dogs, MacPherson suggests. "Hire people who can grow with the company. If you hire someone who can perform a task required today, but nothing more, you won’t have the talent needed for the next phase of growth," she writes. "Make sure the people you hire understand the company's goals and where you want to take the business over the next three to five years."

Don't inflate your employees.

It's important to manage expectations of your staff. Even though your company is small, don't give a sales person or programmer an executive title unless he or she is executive material. "Be careful not to give employees inflated titles. Entrepreneurs are often inclined to give a new hire an executive title, such as vice president, in lieu of a high salary or an equity stake in the company. But if the person is not equal to the demands of that role in a larger company, then your growth will force you to bring in someone above him or her," MacPherson warns. "Why set yourself up for conflict that may distract you from the bigger picture?"

Surround yourself with challengers.

The problem with running a business by yourself is that you don't have any diversity of thought, you have no one to challenge your decisions, or help you make better ones. "Consider setting up an advisory board to help you secure talent and determine the overall structure and strategy of your business," MacPherson writes. "You need others to infuse new thinking and to help you figure out how to delegate your responsibilities."

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Last updated: Oct 8, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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