Redefining your role
As your business grows, you must become a visionary leader
By David Geller, CFP
Most successful entrepreneurs begin their businesses as one-person shops or with just one or two employees. As the company grows in staff, clients and sales, the responsibilities and work-related stress also increase.
There is a solution, though, to the growing pains (see Experiencing growing pains? below) experienced by so many entrepreneurs. By mastering the art of delegation and redefining your role as the business' visionary leader, you can embrace growth and success and enjoy all that life has to offer -- professionally and personally.
What is a visionary leader?
A true visionary leads in these key areas:
- Innovative ideas -- Big-picture thinking that determines long-term strategic direction.
- Values -- Developing and promoting core values for the business.
- Energy -- Motivating people with enthusiasm and focus.
- Edge -- Facing the hard facts and making the tough calls.
The first step is to find someone to whom you can delegate the work that is no longer appropriate for you to do. Start by making a list of everything you do. Identify which jobs are poor uses of your time, are least enjoyable to you, and which you're just not very good at. Indicate the dollar-per-hour value of each task you have identified.
You may soon find that it is more cost-effective to assign these duties to another member of your team, hire a new employee or outsource some of these tasks. This process alone will have you feeling a little lighter as some of the weight is lifted from your shoulders.
Next, write or revise your own job description. By putting down on paper exactly what you do and don't do, it's easier to know what tasks to delegate. This step also helps keep you from slipping back into the traditional entrepreneurial role of wearing all the hats. Yes, in the short term, it may be easier and less expensive to do the work yourself rather than assign it to someone else.
But in the long term, it makes sense to limit your responsibilities. Remember, your main responsibility now is to be the company's visionary leader.
Becoming a visionary leader
As an entrepreneur, your initial role was to focus on sales and keep the business running. Now, as the company's visionary leader, your job is to create innovative marketing strategies, coach your people and direct the overall course of the company. To do this well, schedule time on your calendar to retreat to a quiet, private place for big-picture, strategic planning. This may be an annual event or, especially at the beginning, it may entail a series of sessions over several months.
As part of the planning process, ask yourself these incisive questions and then discuss them with trusted clients, managers, associates and business consultants:
- What do my clients want?
- Who are my competitors and what are my competitive advantages and disadvantages?
- Why did I lose these five customers and why did I gain those five customers?
- What is the direction of my market?
- What other services or products can I offer to meet the changing and growing needs of my customers?
- Where do I want my company to be in one, five and 10 years in terms of sales, size, scope of territory and products or services?
- What investments in people, training and technology are needed in order to accomplish these objectives?
- If I had unlimited capital, how would I use it to grow my business?
Implementing the vision
Often, the biggest challenge in implementing a plan is finding the necessary resources. Obtaining the needed funds may mean taking on debt, scaling back your lifestyle or both. The easiest thing to eliminate is extravagance. Some people find that they are attracted to luxuries as substitutes for what is lacking in their lives -- perhaps a strong family relationship or time for themselves. Once the proper balance is struck, excessive indulgences often lose their luster.
Work on working less. Get away from the office and spend more time with your family. You may want to pamper yourself with a sauna and massage, play a round of golf, or find another activity you enjoy. Whatever activity you choose, be sure you take a break from the office on a regular basis. In addition to re-energizing yourself, you'll find your best ideas and most objective strategies come to you during this time away. The view of the general who is looking down over the field is much better than that of the soldier down in the trenches.
Be discriminating with your sources of information, too. There are clear disadvantages to our so-called "information age." You must learn how to separate the wisdom from the noise. Otherwise, you'll waste a lot of time and sometimes head down the wrong path. Choose your reading material (books, magazines, newspapers) wisely by seeking out authors and sources who are in the trenches and can back up their concepts with real-world examples.
You can also benefit from empowering your key employees and managers. One way to do this is to request annual business plans from each of them and then discuss ways to integrate these plans into the company's vision. Also, get comfortable with taking risks -- it's virtually impossible to make great strides by playing it safe. Sure, there will be times when you fail in your attempts. That's OK. Learn from these mistakes and move on.
Your most important role
If you're like most entrepreneurs, developing a vision for your company is one of your biggest challenges. After all, you're much more accustomed to doing a job than thinking about it. However, with a little discipline and the support from those who share your vision, you'll find this to be the most important and rewarding role you'll ever have.
Experiencing growing pains?
How many of the following signs of "growing pains" sound familiar to you
- You're having trouble serving existing clients while trying to attract new ones.
- You dread, and may even subconsciously sabotage, the prospect of new business.
- You supervise too many people and they often complain about your inaccessibility and poor direction.
- You have some great ideas but are frustrated because you never seem to have the time to implement them.
- You feel you're being pulled in too many directions and you're stretched too thin.
- You're tired and often physically ill.
- Your relationships with your spouse and children are suffering.
- What began as a dream you were passionately committed to has turned into a nightmare.
David Geller, J.D., CFP, is the CEO of GV Financial Advisors, a full-service financial planning firm and registered investment advisor that specializes in working with private business owners, high-income professionals and high-net-worth individuals.