Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back and delegate
Q As a small business owner, my company is my baby but I am becoming too controlling, which is damaging my work/lifestyle balance. How can I better manage staff to give them more autonomy and the ability to work without constant direction?
A I think you have answered the question yourself. If your staff need constant direction, then it is usually down to one person only. . . the business owner. Everyone has their own style and sometimes, without realising it, we make work for ourselves.
It is great that you recognise this is now becoming a problem for you and you are either spending too much time at work or bringing work home with you or generally just allowing your job to take over your life.
Over the last few years, I have met so many business owners who, trying to keep the business afloat, have had to immerse themselves in the business 150pc – but the result has been an enormous strain on the business owner, fatigue and a gradual wearing down of the owner's own performance. It becomes a bit of a vicious circle. You try to make the business more efficient by weighing in and getting heavily involved yourself, but the reality is you end up making yourself more inefficient and doing the wrong job.
The first place to start is to ask yourself where you are adding most value to the business. Everyone has a 'to do' list but I rarely meet any who has a 'not to do' list.
Start by creating this 'not to do' list, made up of all of the things where you are not adding value to what you are doing.
Sit with your staff and explain to them that there are certain things you will be no longer doing and start training individuals up to do these jobs, support them, monitor them and praise them for a job well done.
You must trust people and while it will take a while to have everything done perfectly, you must start somewhere. Otherwise the cycle will not break.
Learn to stand back yourself. Set yourself targets of earlier times to leave work and, regardless of what is happening, leave at this point. It might be also a good idea to get yourself a hobby or take up some activity with your family that forces you to leave on time at least one or two evenings each week.
Q My mid-size business is stagnating. Would you advise calling in consultants or should I try to find new ideas in-house?
A "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." This is a huge risk for any business and is in effect the trap that a business can fall into all too easily.
The reason many businesses fall into this trap is that they don't put the structures and processes into the business to keep it energised.
Before I answer your question, I want to ask a few simple questions. Do you have good structured weekly management meetings? Have you got sales targets in place? Are you monitoring closely the performance of the senior management team?
The answer to your question may be a combination of both external and internal ideas.
The internal ideas will come from strengthening the structures you have in the business and giving the team something to aim for. You will be amazed at the number of good ideas that can come from within any organisation.
What a good external consultant can bring is a whole series of questions that challenge the business, and also good practical ideas that can be implemented speedily.
However, none of these will work unless your own mind is in the right place.
You yourself need to be driven, energised and always focused on the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. . . kaizen.
Start with yourself, then involve your team and at that point when the structures and processes are in place, look at a short injection of external expertise.