Is being the superhero holding your business back?

For small business owners it can be difficult to delegate responsibility but there’s a big difference between commitment and becoming a bottleneck…

Recent research commissioned by the Post Office showed that budding entrepreneurs will put in over 60 hours a week in order to establish their dreams.

This won’t be a surprise to fellow small business owners, where the idea of a holiday or simply a round of golf are wistful fantasies! However, before we start feeling sorry for these poor souls, consider this – can you actually let go? When there’s a problem, is it always you that steps in to save the day? Is it something only you know how to do properly?

You may consider yourself the office superhero but others may just consider you the office meddler! Believe it or not, superheroes are more common than you might think. In truth, it’s a behaviour that afflicts many small business owners and inevitably, it holds their businesses back.

If you’re the boss that believes they do most jobs better than everyone else, sorts out all of the problems and is ultimately responsible for all the decisions, then it’s not resources, nor timing, nor lack of money preventing your business growth – it’s you!

Letting go of your baby isn’t easy, but it’s more important that business leaders focus on their primary objective – leading! Being enthusiastic is one thing, being the bottleneck is quite another. Not only does this behaviour stall every project and opportunity, but it also prevents the growth of your team.

Working on the business, as well as in the business

The reality is that one person can only do so much, and your business needs to grow beyond the constraints of your time. Learning to step away from the day-to-day activities of the business will undoubtedly free up time for you to become more strategic and provide you with the opportunity to take your business to the next level.

Becoming more strategic will require you to do less day-to-day activities and instead spend more time coaching your team so you can be in a position where you trust them to get things done. Empowering them with a voice to challenge the status quo can also lead to opportunities for improvements and great new ideas!

This is an important step. Research from Cranfield University found that 60% of senior staff in small firms left within two years of their appointment due to frustration. To avoid such a waste of time and effort, it makes more sense to hire people that have the right attitude, train them, and then let them get on with it!

Of course, this is much easier said than done; so how do you get from where you are now to where you’d rather be?

It’s a question of trust

As your business grows, you, your managers and your staff will all face the prospect of taking on more and more responsibility; often learning new things as you go. This is not only the acid test of your leadership qualities, but the quality of your systems and processes, as your people become swamped and your business enters unchartered territory.

So where do you start?

Fortunately, there is a management standard available called ISO 9001 to help you. Not only does it help to give you a clear understanding of your current (and desired) state, it also crucially enables you to create a framework of processes so that your team know what to do, how to do it and when. We all talk about ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’; well this is how you can start to make it happen.

For you, the owner-manager struggling to let go, ISO 9001 allows you to delegate responsibility and empower your staff to challenge themselves by finding opportunities for greater efficiency and consistency. Not only is this good news for you and your people in terms of morale and productivity, it will lead to a better customer experience too!

Empowering your staff

To do the rights things and do the things right, you need to hire people with the correct attitude, and they need to be in an environment where they are motivated, have influence and feel part of the bigger picture. These are the demands of a well run business. It also demands a leader who is able to motivate, challenge, reward and keep things on track. However, in reality, the latter can only really happen as a result of the former!

How do you think large companies deliver excellent service time after time? Without good processes, motivated people and consistency, they’d simply be trusting to luck!

ISO 9001 isn’t magic though; it won’t turn your business into the perfect organisation, but it can bring you consistency with traceability. This means that when things do go wrong (as occasionally they will), you’d be able to track back and identify whether you had a process problem or a person problem. Crucially, for you – the leader – it would bring you the most valuable commodity of all – time! That’s time to think, time to plan and eventually time to have that round of golf; maybe even that holiday!

It’s telling that Cranfield’s research goes on to mention that two-thirds of owner-managed companies have no written plan at all. If you count yourself in that group, it really is time to hang up that cape and stop being a superhero. Instead, be that leader your business needs you to be.

The British Assessment Bureau helps small businesses grow through better management and competitive advantage. Visit their website for more on how ISO 9001 can help your business.

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