Anyone who has worked for an entrepreneur knows they have a difficult time removing themselves from the day-to-day operations of their business.
When you've built a company from the ground up, it becomes your baby--and it can feel like if you're not there to make decisions, everything will fall apart. But when every decision relies on you, you become the bottleneck.
Luckily, there's one thing that can guide nearly every decision made at your company. And chances are, you're already working on it.
It's your brand.
Your brand can make decisions on your behalf
As you define a brand and identity for your company, you'll begin to discover the principles and values that guide your entire business. In Bullseye--a mastermind group for entrepreneurs that I co-founded with Lee Brower, one of the head coaches at Strategic Coach--one of the first things we discuss with new members is the principles which they and their companies stand for.
The first step is to find four to eight underlying principles based upon actual experiences in your company. These principles become the foundation for your brand, and when everyone on your team understands them, they'll be more equipped to make informed decisions on your behalf. For most decisions, your team can simply ask themselves, "Is this in line with our brand?"
In my company, Leverage--a business focused on making companies run as efficiently as possible--we take on the jobs our clients need done but don't have the bandwidth or skill set to do, leaving them to focus on their unique abilities and take their businesses further.
So, when major decisions need to be made, we absolutely need to know what the brand's purpose is and what value it offers its clients. As external partners, we build on this so that we're pulling in the same direction as the founder (and internal teams) and leveraging resources productively.
During the company's infancy, I felt that I needed to be personally involved in every aspect of the business--from sales to marketing to operations--because I felt I was the only one that truly understood the Leverage brand. I never took the time to write down and share what was in my head.
The brand has now become everyone's responsibility. The team understands our role in the world and what the Leverage brand sets out to achieve. It was hard to articulate and even harder to let go, but I'm finally comfortable leaving the decisions to them because I know we are clear about what we do--and perhaps more importantly, what we don't.
Your brand needs to be bigger than you
Once you understand that your brand can make decisions, it becomes far more than just a part of your marketing toolbox. In fact, if "Brand" sits within "Marketing," it's already being underutilized.
Suzy Batiz--the founder of Poo Pourri, personal friend, and client of mine--has created an incredibly strong brand out of a company that focuses on something no one even likes talking about. She considers the Poo Pourri brand to be a "living, breathing organism."
From day one, she has always referred to it as if it were a person, asking herself and her staff questions like, "What would she want us to do right now?" and "Would she like the decision we're making?" She set the framework of what she wanted the company to be and how it would behave, sharing it with others along the way.
Batiz told me a story about how she took two weeks off during the company's infancy, at a time when most founders would be involved in every aspect of their business, day and night. Her small team had no way to contact her.
Several of those employees are still with the company today, and they'll be the first to tell you they had "literally no idea what was going on."
Batiz knew they had no idea what was going on. But she also knew they could make the right decisions because they understood the Poo Pourri brand. They could test their thinking and decisions by assessing them against the living, breathing organism that is the Poo Pourri brand.
Sure enough, the company survived her two-week hiatus and many more over the next decade. All testimony to her being brave enough to step aside and test its ability to be a truly strong brand rather than just a business with a strong founder. (A subtle but important difference in the ability to scale--and survive.)
The Poo Pourri brand has now become the ultimate guiding voice and decision-maker throughout the company--even more so than Batiz herself. Which begs the awkward question for all of us: If you walked away from your team tomorrow, would your business be the same the next day?