As an entrepreneur, you no doubt have dreams of growing your company into something much larger than it is today. But scaling a company also can mean the owner needs to evolve as a leader. In the very early stages of a company, most entrepreneurs wear many hats. For the startups I’ve founded, I’ve written website content, closed deals with customers and managed teams of developers among other things.
Like most entrepreneurs, I love wearing lots of hats. But there comes a time when entrepreneurs need to start focusing on the big picture. No matter how good they may be at sales, marketing or engineering, devoting too much time to a single area of the business can prevent executives from gaining the bird’s-eye view needed to lead a company to success.
Here are five ways a leader can drive growth by being selective in his or her approach:
The time in the company's initial stages that you spent assuming different roles will be invaluable when it comes time to recruit the right team members. In the beginning, learn as much as possible about sales, marketing, engineering, product development and other areas of the business.
The more you know about each area of the business, the better you’ll be at finding someone who can not only successfully own those processes but can do them even better than you. From being hands-on in my startups, I have always managed to surround myself with a team that I can trust.
A lot of founders delay in assigning others important tasks and hinder their company’s growth as a result. As founders, we’re more passionate about our companies than anyone and it’s only natural to want to lead every process.
For example, in the early stages of my tenure at my current company, RingDNA, I managed development teams myself. It was no easy task communicating with a team of developers spanning multiple time zones. But it was crucial for me to be able to communicate my vision to the people who were building our products.
But there comes a point when other areas of the business will require intense focus. As a founder, you need to be honest with yourself. If you’re no longer able to give a task your all and you have the budget to onboard a successor, don’t hesitate.
One of the most important things to do when scaling a company is to document best practices. This is something founders typically expect of others, but don’t do themselves. After all, you’re too busy wearing all those hats to document anything.
But the fact is that the documentation process all starts with you. The wealth of wisdom you’ve amassed about what works (and what does not) needs to be passed on clearly and carefully.
Prior to handing off a task to a new hire:
Try to define how much time you’re spending a week in a given role.
During the week before you hand any role off to others, try to document a few best practices each day. Use something editable, like a Google Doc, so your successor can then add, edit and refine the document for his or her eventual successor.
By documenting the best practices, you’ll be setting a good example for all your present and future employees, and it’ll be easier to ask the same of them.
As you delegate tasks, establish benchmarks for success. These success metrics, in part, will be the lens through with which you see the company. For example, which marketing investments are generating the most opportunities and revenue? How efficient is the sales team at generating opportunities? What is the opportunity close rate for each sales rep? How efficient is the product team at delivering on time and within budget? What is your customer acquisition cost? What is your net promoter score?
These metrics are not just essential to ensuring that the company achieves its goals. They’re also essential to ensuring that you can engage in actionable, constructive dialogue with your key hires during good times and bad. After all, creating a close working relationship with your core team is ultimately what will give your company the best possible chance of success.
A great CEO needs to be able to find a balance between micromanaging and being completely hands-off. Every leader is different, and you’ll have to find the balance that works best for you. If you get stuck micromanaging trivial details, you simply won’t be able to prioritize vital tasks.
Some top executives go to drastic lengths to avoid minutiae. John Paul Mitchell Systems’ co-founder John Paul DeJoria doesn’t use email, seeing it as a distraction. David Karp, Tumblr’s founder, refuses to schedule meetings. While these are extreme examples, they illustrate the point that to scale, founders have to find a way to avoid becoming lost in the weeds. To do this, you’ve got to define your own set of rules that helps you focus on your employees, customers and leadership goals.
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