If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone.
The frustrations you are experiencing are both understandable and predictable. As small companies grow, the founder can no longer do everything himself. Many refuse to delegate, and their organization stop growing. Their companies never become any bigger than one person can handle.
But even for companies that recognize the problem, the transition from individual control to broad-based management is difficult and scary. It is a huge psychological step turning over (even part of) what you created to someone else.
When do you take that step?
The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is immediately upon creation. Even when the company is small enough for one person to do everything, one person should not be doing it all. What this means is if you haven't done so already, you need to start delegating today.
The answers run the gamut from practicality to human nature.
What strikes me after talking to several hundred chief executives of emerging growth companies is how few are comfortable and good at creating new ideas and also managing organizations. Maybe one in ten perform well in both roles. Some don't have the temperament--not only do they not suffer fools gladly, they are not crazy about people who as bright as they are. They are not the kind of people you want handling personnel.
Other entrepreneurs couldn't organize a pickup softball game, let alone a company, if their life depended on it. And indeed their company's life does depend on it.
But the argument for early delegation of power goes beyond the entrepreneur's ability to shuffle papers and mange people. It goes to the heart of what is effective management in an emerging company.
As their companies grow quickly, entrepreneurs find they are spending an increasing amount of their time dealing with minor personal personnel problems--things like an employee needs a three month advance on their salary or they will lose their house--and a lot of minor operations issues as well like do we order from Staples or Office Depot.
Maybe the entrepreneur can deal with these questions with dispatch; maybe he can't. But the fact is he shouldn't have to.
What entrepreneurs are good at, by definition, is figuring out ways to compete differently; finding holes in the marketplace and ways to exploit them. That's what got them into business, not the ability to thrive within a large organization.
Indeed, most of these people left large organizations because they didn't like them or could not function effectively within them. If they couldn't cope with a large organization when they worked for one, how are they going to build one and run it effectively? The vast majority of them won't.
Recognizing that reality, they should make plans early in their company's lives to deal with it.
Relatively simple tasks should be delegated as soon as a company starts to grow. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate at first. Administrative assistants can fill out insurance forms and routine invoices, for example. Ideally, those people can handle increased responsibilities as the company expands. To ensure that happens, overqualified people should be hired for each new position, as the company experiences rapid growth. The temptation is to hire cheap. That's wrong, since you'll only get what you pay for.
There is also a temptation to deal with pending organizational problems by saying, "we will cross that bridge when we come to it." That's wrong, too. The odds are by the time you get to the bridge, it will be too late.
Emerging growth companies emerge quickly. In addition to being able to respond to a changing market, the entrepreneur must be able to deal with the organization that will be emerging within his company as it experiences rapid growth. Anticipation of internal personnel and administrative problems is vital if the external business plan is to have any chance of success.
The takeaway: Delegate before you have to.