One major milestone of running a business is reaching a point where the business can continue to operate smoothly even when you are not there. Though this is typically said in reference to delegating tasks and having clear, thought-out policies and procedures, the truth is it goes way beyond that.
The idea for this post came shortly after hearing that Steve Jobs, Apple Inc’s iconic CEO, had passed away. Since his resignation back in August there has been much speculation about the future of Apple. Will the company be the same without its gifted visionary? Will Tim Cook, the new CEO, be able to fill the inflated shoes of his predecessor?
The answer is quite simply no. Most notable among all the qualities that he possessed, Jobs had a unique, uncanny ability to envision and develop products that spoke to the innate human need for beauty, simplicity, harmony, and control. His input cannot be easily replaced.
Nevertheless, we may not have to ring the death knell for Apple just yet. The company may still enjoy some level of success even after its purported product pipeline has dried up. It really depends how much effort was put into separating Steve Jobs from Apple before he left, and it depends on how much thought was put into the transition that seemed all but inevitable especially in the last couple years.
And herein lies an important lesson for new small business owners: as you go about developing your business you should be setting things up so that eventually the dependence on your input is reduced. This self-imposed obsolescence may seem a bit counter-intuitive, not to mention quite difficult to do in practice especially when you’re busy pouring so much time, energy, expertise, and other resources into building up your business. But the truth is that it is quite normal and necessary to have to step away at times, and you need to feel confident that your business can still run even when you can’t be at the helm.
That said, how can you go about doing this? Aside from making sure that you are adequately delegating responsibilities and outsourcing jobs where needed, there are three points to keep on mind:
1. Working to reduce your involvement should be an underlying priority. As you go about developing and growing your business there may be many demands made on you and your resources especially at the beginning. Though trying to pull yourself out of key decisions and tasks too early is not good, the decisions that you make right now in terms of hiring, training, creating policies and procedures, should nevertheless be conducted with an eye towards the future. You should have in the back of your mind that you are trying to build up a company that will eventually be able to walk on its own two feet if and when needed.
2. Make an effort to hire an appropriate, adaptable team of people. As you build up your workforce, you are not only looking for people who have the experience and skills to get the job done, but who potentially possess the flexibility and/or initiative to ensure that the business will continue to effectively operate and develop through all the bumps and detours along the way. You also want to make sure that these people can both share in and enhance the vision you have for your business.
3. Impress your attitude and goals on your employees. Make sure that your goals for the business are firmly stamped into it’s culture. If your business thrives on a particular kind of innovative spirit, then assuming that you’ve hired people who possess this quality, you need to make sure that you are doing what you can to encourage and cultivate it. The same applies to any other core company values, such as quality control and its approach to customer service.
In short, as you go about laying the foundation for your business, make sure all those tasks and decisions aren’t entirely resting on your shoulders. You should leave yourself enough room to shrug without feeling like the world will fall down.