The calls were becoming overwhelming. It was August 2015, and Matthew Tortura was getting inundated with inquiries from university representatives who wanted to take part in WhatsGood, his online marketplace that connected farmers and buyers of their products. Ultimately, he couldn’t handle the volume on his own.
“I realized I needed a bigger boat,” he says. “I needed to build a team.”
But building that “bigger boat” requires an entrepreneur to give up control, and giving up control as your company expands is one of the hardest challenges an entrepreneur faces. Finalists, winners, and judges who took part in Get Started, a fast-paced pitch competition developed by Cox Business, explained how they learned to put their trust in others so their business could move to the next stage.
Check the line at your door
Susan Armstrong believes every entrepreneur needs trusted employees who share their vision to help get their company off to a strong start. But she readily admits that trusting people and delegating is difficult for her. At a workshop for business owners she attended, one presenter’s words resonated with her: “Do you ever have a line outside your door of people who need you to make a decision? This is clearly an indicator that you are not enabling your team to grow, and your business will never be as successful as it should be.”
Armstrong realized she was the bottleneck to her company’s growth. “From that moment forward, whenever a staff member came to me with a problem, I asked them to propose a solution,” she says. “Soon, they stopped bringing me the problems at all; they solved them on their own and reported their actions in our weekly meetings. This gave everyone greater freedom, more confidence in their own decision-making, and improved customer service.”
Susan Armstrong, president and CEO of Armstrong Chamberlin Strategic Marketing, and a judge for Get Started Wichita 2016
Look at the data
After Nancy Williams started a community food hub called No More Empty Pots, she found a mentor to help her develop leadership skills. The mentor had Williams do a self-assessment test which indicated she had a hard time giving up control to others until they proved they could do the work.
Williams always knew she had trouble relinquishing control, but seeing that in black-and-white was like a slap in the face. “I come from an IT background, and I believe in data,” she says. “When I had the data in front of me, I realized that I needed to radically remove things from my plate on a day-to-day basis so I could focus on the bigger picture.”
For her, letting go had become almost a spiritual quest that has empowered herself, her workers, and her organization. “The most important thing I’ve learned on this journey is to let go of things and be in the moment,” she says. “Being present matters, and I’ve learned that accepting and giving grace is paramount to living the life you want and to helping those around you live the life they want.”
Nancy Williams was a judge for Get Started Omaha 2017.
Admit what you don’t know
Steve Goldman has an impressive resume, filled with positions of authority. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was chief of cardiology at the Tucson VA Medical Center. He is a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona’s Sarver Heart Center.
He conducted much of the basic research that went into MyCardia, “a beating heart graft” which can be implanted on the surface of the heart and regenerate the damaged tissue. When Goldman and his other two founders won Tucson Get Started, they said they were going to put the prize money into hiring consultants to advise them on dealing with FDA regulations, manufacturing, and other issues they faced.
Goldman says that realizing his medical colleagues and he needed assistance was a case of realizing they were “neophytes” when it came to business. “Accepting help is easy if you are honest about what you don’t know,” he says. “There are plenty of examples in business of people who thought they knew everything and were wrong-;that’s a recipe for disaster.”
Steve Goldman, co-founder and chief medical officer for MyCardia, won first place at Get Started Tucson 2016.
Give them a test run
Colin Nabity operates a fast-growing software company called LeverageRX that helps physicians handle their unique financial decisions: They often come out of residency with $200,000 in student loan debt, but make large salaries and are eligible for unique mortgage programs.
Like many software entrepreneurs, he built his company using contractors. “When you deal with freelancers and subcontractors, you don’t worry about giving up control,” he says. “The minute you hang up the phone, they’re going to run with whatever task you’ve given them.”
As he started building out his staff, he hired many of those freelancers and contractors. They were “plug-and-play employees” who were already up to speed. “I was already comfortable working with them and happy with their work,” he says. “The freelance relationship became a low-risk trial period where I could see if they understood the vision and the opportunity we were offering.”
Colin Nabity’s company, LeverageRX, was a finalist for Get Started Omaha 2017.
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