Cheryl ran a $1.5 million per year glass company. She worked hard, typically 70 hours a week, and she was scared to death to empower her team to "own" functions and responsibilities within the business.
"David," she said, "I've tried that before. I delegated to my team and asked them to run their respective areas of the business, and after 6 months the business was in a mess. Sure we had grown, but our margins had shrunk, customers weren't happy, and I hated the stress of waiting to see what would go wrong next."
In Cheryl's world, the reason her experiment with "empowerment" didn't work was because she gave up control and her team just weren't capable enough to do things as well as she could.
So her solution was to just grab back the reins and take charge of the company in a firm manner.
And it worked, to a degree. She improved her margins and grew her profits. But then she hit a plateau where she was stuck--for several years. What was worse, she was working harder than ever, stretched thin and unable to even think about growing any more for fear of things coming crashing down again.
What had she missed?
Mistake One: Letting Go of Control Is Not an On/Off Switch, It's a Dimmer
She didn't realize that letting go of control wasn't an on/off switch--let go completely; stay in control completely--rather it was a dimmer with which she needed to progressively ease ownership of functions to her staff, with each key function with a structure of system and controls to it.
The systems are the processes, procedures, and tools to help get that function done.
They are the documented best practices and tools that increase your company's efficiency, reduce costly mistakes, and make your business more scalable.
They include the checklists your operations manager follows when working with a new client, the orientation process you use to onboard all new hires, the sequential process for producing your core product or service, and the automatic e-mail sequence that goes out to each new prospect.
Basically, business systems include any essential company know-how that you have captured in a tangible format as opposed to information locked in the brain of an individual team member.
But systems by themselves aren't enough, you need a feedback and control mechanism to help your team use your systems at the right time, in the right way, to get the right results. We call these specialized systems your "controls".
Mistake #2: Handing Off Ownership of a Function with No Feedback Loop or "Control"
Controls are the intelligent processes, procedures, and safeguards that protect your company from uninformed, inappropriate, or just plain careless decisions or actions by any team member.
To scale your company, you want your team to have the authority to get tasks done without running everything past you, and to do this in a way that recognizes the company's need to protect itself and to empower the staff member with the feedback they need to make adjustments and stay on course.
Mistake #3: Thinking Controls Are About Empowering You the Owner
Building strong internal controls is not about you, the business owner, being in control, but rather enhancing and giving control to your business.
The best controls make the default behavior the right behavior. And they empower your team to get better results with less effort by giving them immediate feedback and a more defined playing field.
You don't want your controls to be a police officer hiding in a speed trap to catch and ticket an unwary team member. Rather, you want your controls to be more like a speedometer or cruise control system that helps individual team members autonomously do better work.
Further, good controls also empower your managers and leaders with immediately clear and actionable information on how to coach and redirect your team, by letting them know what's going on in an area at any given moment.
Collectively, your systems, team, and controls in combination are what allow you to successfully scale your company.
If any of what I shared in this article resonated with you and you want to get more in-depth details of how you can grow your company by reducing its reliance on you, then please join me for a special webinar training I'm doing that's coming up very soon. We offer these free classes from time to time and they'll help you learn how to grow your company without sacrificing your life to do it.