While early on launching a startup can be all-consuming, at some point you may want to be less involved. Maybe you'll start another business. Maybe you'll take a sabbatical of sorts to recharge your entrepreneurial batteries. Or maybe you hope to retire, whether in full or in part, and serve as more of a consultant to the company you started.
Whatever your motivation for taking a step back, you'll only be able to step back if you've built a business that can not only function but achieve new goals and hit new targets. In short, you'll need to build a business that can survive without you.
And, more importantly, thrive without you.
(Keep in mind the premise is different than building a business with the intent to someday sell. In that case your goal is to build a business someone else will own and run. In this case, your goal is to build a business that you still own but that largely runs itself.)
How can you pull that off?
1. Start teaching your employees to think autonomously.
There's a huge difference between "urgent" and important. Let employees interrupt your phone calls or meetings because they "urgently" need you and they'll never learn to handle problems on their own. Drop whatever you're doing whenever an employee asks a question and they'll always rely on your input.
Once your employees know their jobs, steadily give them greater authority to solve problems, try new things and make judgment calls.
They'll love the freedom and independence, and they'll need you a lot less.
In a good way.
2. Stop directing and start asking more questions.
Tell people what to do and they'll always do it your way.
Ask people questions and they'll come up with their own -- often better -- solutions.
Instead of saying, "That order is going to be late, so let's ship it overnight," say, "That order is going to be late. What do you think we should do?" Then help the employee think through the problem. Maybe the best answer is to ship overnight. Or the best answer might be to drop-ship to your customer's customer. Or send a partial shipment. Or, who knows?
The best way to develop autonomous employees is to help them understand not just what to do, but why.
See yourself as more of a teacher or consultant than a manager. Even if you never do step away, you'll develop a more skilled, more capable and more engaged workforce.
3. Start holding 10-minute stand-up meetings.
As the owner, you're the linchpin. Information flows through you. But if you want to be able to step away, information needs to flow throughout the organization.
A great way to accomplish that is to hold daily 10-minute stand-up meetings that allow your team to quickly work through issues and exchange information that eliminates friction points. Those meetings also allow leaders to quickly identify potential problems and step in to remove barriers and provide early assistance.
Just make sure that once you've established the format and the tone of your stand-up meetings, you ease back and let your team take over.
4. Start getting the right people in the right seats.
Everyone talks about getting the right people on the bus. But it's just as important to get the right people in the right seats.
That's especially true where leadership skills are concerned. Some employees may be exceptionally skilled at performing certain tasks but lack the aptitude -- or even the interest -- for leading others. Others may only be above-average in terms of skills but outstanding coaches, trainers and mentors.
Every business needs both, but a business that will run itself needs people who are adaptable, who are eager to learn and grow and who wholeheartedly embrace not only the authority but the responsibility for leading others. People who love setting goals. People who love working with others to achieve those goals.
Start making sure you have the right people in the right seats. And start hiring people who thrive on taking responsibility. They'll benefit from the opportunity to further develop their skills and their careers.
And your business will definitely benefit -- whether you're there every day or not.