If you've been able to launch a business by yourself, you have done something truly extraordinary. If you want that business to continue growing, however, you'll need help.
Whom you choose to work alongside you will ultimately determine the fate of your company. Choose the wrong people, and your startup probably won't survive. It's one of the most common reasons startups fail, in fact. But you are the one who will have to choose.
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs who have spent countless hours alone, building a company around an idea that is completely their own, are hesitant about bringing other people into the fold. After all, assembling an executive team to help you run your business is going to cost you serious equity (and possibly money, depending on how far along you are). However, not even the most gifted entrepreneurs can do everything that's required to scale a business on their own.
Once you have assembled a team, your mindset as an entrepreneur must change radically. Instead of focusing all of your energy on chasing business objectives or developing your product, much of your time will now be focused on supporting your team. Early on, you may be tempted to put your head down and do things your way, but it's important to resist that temptation. Instead, take the following steps to help ensure effective collaboration and get the most out of your executive team.
1. Delegate some of your power to other members of the team.
If you want team members to be as invested in building your company as you are (and I'm guessing you do), then you have to give them ownership--but not just in the form of equity. If you're a technical founder, for instance, you'll probably want to hire someone with a business background to be your CEO. Allow that person, and the rest of the executive team, to own part of the company's vision and make important decisions about its direction. Don't be afraid to delegate. To do so logically, separate your responsibilities into two categories: internal and external.
Internal responsibilities could include everything from a QuickBooks installation to product development to setting up G Suite calendaring and payroll software integrations. External responsibilities could be tasks such as contract negotiations, stock option planning, press appearances, or fundraising meetings. "Segmenting these tasks fosters conversations about leveraging strengths, filling in gaps, and prioritizing responsibilities," says Will Koffel, head of the Google Cloud Startup Program in the Americas. Once you have a list of duties, reassign some of your responsibilities to the leader on your team most capable of handling each function.
2. Take a holistic approach to your team's well-being.
When you think about well-being, you likely think of your health insurance package. While the healthcare benefits you offer are crucial, they are just one piece of your team members' overall wellness. Find ways to support your team's physical, financial, and mental fitness as well as their personal growth, stress management, and spiritual health. By taking a holistic approach to supporting your leadership team's well-being, you'll help each team member bring his or her best self to work. There are numerous ways, both big and small, that you can accomplish this goal.
For example, Softwire, a U.K. software development company, offers employees semi-expected perks like a private gym, an on-site chef, and a recreation room, but it also throws in music lessons and a morale budget. Even if you're not in a position to do the same, you can still find creative ways to ensure the members of your leadership team have opportunities for personal growth and much-needed rest and relaxation. Host workshops on financial topics such as retirement planning, offer team cooking classes, or share best practices on time management. Also, have out of office plans and paid time off policies that make your fellow leaders feel comfortable using their vacation time.
3. Don't solve their problems.
As a founder, your daily to-do lists are inevitably going to be long. However, they should never include problems that aren't yours to solve. You're not doing your leadership team members any favors by being too helpful. Solving problems for them will only hold them back from growing as leaders. In addition, if you're sacrificing time that could be spent on strategy and long-term planning to address issues that -- though they may be important -- are someone else's responsibility, you're doing your company a disservice. And you'll likely suffer burnout as a result.
Instead, empower the members of your leadership team to solve problems on their own, and let them know you're available and can provide input on the real head-scratchers. According to startup expert David Finkel, sometimes the best thing you can say to a team member who asks how to solve a problem is, "I don't know. What do you think?" This type of response encourages individuals to trust themselves and take initiative, and it reaffirms your confidence in them.
At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, you'll realize that you don't have all the answers. Rather than searching for them alone, lean on others who can help you fill in the blanks. With your support, the right team can bring your original vision to life in a way that you never thought possible.