How to Have Both Freedom and Control as a Business Owner

You start your own business largely to have more control over operations, but there’s a point where that can become detrimental to both yourself and your company

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If you’re like the majority of business owners, you started your own business because you wanted the freedom to do things your way. You wanted control over your future, your finances and your time. You didn’t want your success to be tied to someone who didn’t know what they were doing, didn’t share your values and work ethic or didn’t have your respect.   

So you put yourself in the driver’s seat and started off on your own journey. Sure, there was risk involved, but at least you were the one behind the wheel.

No one can deny that starting your own business takes courage, confidence and a lot of hard work. But the same sense of responsibility and desire for control that set you off on your journey can actually limit how far you’ll go and dictate just how big you can grow the business. Why? Because it’s this same sense of responsibility and desire for control that keeps your hands firmly gripped on the reins and prevents you from seeking the help you need to take your business to the next level.

No one achieves the highest heights alone. Even Steve Jobs had help getting Apple from the garage to a company valued at over $700 billion. At some point, if you want to take your business higher and further, you have to let go. But letting go is hard.

Why is letting go so hard to do? Because it feels uncomfortable, wasteful and stressful at first. It seems faster and easier to continue doing all the work yourself, because when you’re doing the job, you know it’ll be done right. There’s no wasted time training or explaining, no risk of miscommunication and no time spent checking the work that’s been done. You can trust yourself, but you can’t always trust others. 

Building a Business With a Single Point of Failure

When you run your business this way, yes, you get the control you sought out at the start, but you’re cheating yourself of the other items on your wish list: freedom and time. You may be the one tying the knots, but you’re still tied down.

Without you, your business can’t function and can’t bring in income. Without you, there is no business. Without you, the entire system stops working. In the engineering world, this type of setup is considered a single point of failure. Your business has one part (you) that must be working well at all times or the entire machine goes kaput. You may have dreamed of family vacations, golf, and other luxuries when you set out to build your own business, but that’s all that these freedoms and luxuries can remain in this setup — dreams.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a gloom and doom article. There is hope. Change is within your control, and it starts with deciding you’re going to delegate and set up your business in a different way. 

Delegating — Sometimes Scary, Definitely Necessary

If you’re like so many others, the thought of giving up control in some areas may make you feel threatened. But remember: Delegating is not the process of replacing the business owner; it’s the process of supporting the business owner. By getting some of the tasks off of your to-do list, you’re freeing yourself up to focus on bigger, more impactful work in the company. And as scary as it can be to entrust your creation to others, if you hire right, it can actually be a really great thing for you and a really great thing for your business. 

How to Delegate Wisely

One of the first things you should delegate is your phone. Answering calls, returning calls, and scheduling can be time consuming to say the least, especially if you’re out in the field doing the work as well. If you want to ease yourself into it and see the benefits of delegating almost instantly, find a personable, friendly professional to manage incoming and outgoing calls and scheduling.

Next, figure out which tasks really have to be done by you and which tasks could be done by someone else with the right training. Identify the type of traits that would help a person succeed at the tasks/job you’re considering delegating and hire accordingly. Unless it’s 100 percent crucial, don’t hire for experience. Instead, hire for personality, attitude and culture fit. If the person you’re considering bringing on to the team aligns with your personal core values and culture (and company core values/culture if you’ve established those) and they have a willingness to learn, hire them. You’ll find that training and experience are much easier issues to address than personal core values and culture.

Now, take some time to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are and what takes up too much of your time. Are you terrible at bookkeeping? Consider bringing on a part-time bookkeeper next.

As you get more and more things off your shoulders, you’ll find that you have a lot more time and focus to bring to your business and your personal life. You’ll be able to work on your business, rather than in your business.

That doesn’t mean you have to give up the things you love. If you love being in the field and your favorite part of the day is when you’re with the customer talking them through their options and educating them, keep doing that. You can always delegate some of the office and management work if your heart is the heart of a tech. Remember, it’s your company, so you can be where you want to be in it. Just make sure you’re not the only one spinning plates and turning wheels. 

Are You Really Letting Go?

Maybe you’ve already grown your team, but you still don’t feel like you’ve freed yourself up at all. The question to ask yourself is, “Am I really letting go, or do I still have my hands in everything?” If you aren’t giving your employees the freedom and autonomy to do the work and you don’t trust them enough to let go, you’re actually creating more work for yourself. Plus, your employees will know you’re still trying to pull all the strings, and no one wants to be micromanaged.

Work on truly letting go and trusting your team to do the work right. If you’ve hired right, put the right people in the right place, and developed standard operating procedures and systems that walk each team member through each process, you should be able to trust the people and processes to get the job done to your standards.

So loosen your grip and let the people you’ve hired and the processes and systems you’ve put into place work for you. It’s the only way you’ll ever truly grow beyond what you, the single point of failure, can do. Hiring and delegating wisely is usually a slower, more intentional process that requires a lot of thought, but it’s worth it. When done right, your business will function like clockwork, even if you have to be out for the day, week, or even month.

Finally — control and freedom.

About the Authors

Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the co-founders of Spark Marketer, a Nashville, Tennessee-based digital marketing company that works primarily with service businesses. They’re also the co-hosts of the "Blue Collar Proud (BCP) Show," a podcast that’s all about having and living the blue collar dream, and the co-authors of the book, Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love. Both regularly speak at service industry trade shows and conferences across the nation. Visit facebook.com/sparkmarketerfacebook.com/bcpshow or facebook.com/groups/bluecollarproudnation.



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