Almost every business owner dreams of having a business that can run without them, allowing them to take well deserved holidays, create balance in their life and/or focus on projects that grow their business. As businesses grow, business owners must acknowledge that their time would be better spent working on the business instead of in it, leading to the one and only question: How do I replace myself in my business?
For most business owners, removing themselves from the business day to day is no more than a pipe dream, as much of their time is taken up by reacting to what is happening here and now. Initially, this reactive mindset and attitude are required to take an idea to market and to have early stage success in a business. This close attention allows for quick idea iteration, reacting to customer responses and having the intangible knowledge of customers, suppliers and the business that helps us make data driven decisions.
But there comes a time where you realise that in order for the business to continue growing, you need to be working on it, not in it. Once this becomes the case, there are two follow up questions you must ask yourself:
- Can your business survive without you? - if you walked out of the business for 6 months, would it still be surviving in near enough its current state in terms of revenue, profit, customer satisfaction and employee retention?
- Can your business thrive without you? - If you walked out of the business for 6 months, would you come back to a better and stronger business because of the quality of the team and marketing machine?
Would Your Business Survive Without You?
There are many challenges that prevent someone from taking the first step to replacing themself in their business. These include financial resources, brand expectations, recruitment challenges, systems & processes and more. Until you have considered all of these factors you will not be in a position to replace yourself in your business and be confident it will survive without you.
Before you can replace yourself in your business you need to have enough cash available to be able to hire staff, pay someone external or train someone else to complete the work you would be doing. This can be a very quick process or may require a staged approach, gradually bringing on more resources until you have the profitability and cash flow to allow you to not complete customer facing activities.
If you’re an entrepreneur who is used to being involved in every aspect of your business, you may struggle to let go and allow others to take the lead. But micromanagement can stifle initiative from employees. Having clear metrics that allow you to track quality can help in this area.
Let’s be honest, for most people when they start a business, it’s their baby. This can make it hard to release control, especially if it’s closely tied to their identity. To replace yourself in your business, you must be prepared to let some of that go and hopefully pass some of it on to new employees. Make sure you clearly articulate your business goals and notice how without adjusting those perceptions, ambitious goals can’t be achieved.
If the business was initially built around a personality, such as an outward facing CEO with a strong personal brand, the customers may have an expectation that this person continues to be their contact within the business. In an ideal world a business leader mitigates this early on, but sometimes it’s inevitable and to replace themselves, a CEO needs to ensure the business brand is as strong as their own personal brand.
Do you find someone with the right soft skills, but little experience that you can train up? Or do you hire someone who can hit the ground running? Both have their pros and cons, but sometimes it’s hard to hire anyone at all. In the current climate especially, SME’S have limited access to skilled labour compared to larger companies, making it harder for them to stay afloat (World Economic Forum, 2021). Getting the right people in your business is far more important than just getting people, so being an effective recruiter is key to your success. One approach that can help you create a diverse team is ensuring that each employee has at least one skill that they are the best at in the business, that way they always bring something new to the team.
Having a very clear accountability chart helps businesses to identify roles, create clear job descriptions and manage staff based on metrics. From a recruitment perspective, it allows a leader to hand over a particular role within the business with clarity whilst maintaining oversight.
Time Resource & Training Employees
If you do choose to bring a wider team in to replace yourself, they may very well need to be onboarded and then be trained, which can take a lot of time! Small businesses might struggle to invest the time required to match the quality of training of larger organisations.
The world renowned leadership coach John C. Maxwell in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership provided his view on how to train new members of staff. Here is an example of how this can be adjusted to work in a given setting with the following 4 stages; I show you; I tell you; You show me; You do, I review.
1) I show you - The trainer will show the learner the task describing what they are doing and why they are doing it, the learner should take notes. The aim of this phase is to provide an overview of the process and allow those who learn by seeing to have an opportunity to watch the task being completed.
2) I tell you - The trainer tells the learner exactly what to do to complete the task while the learner follows instructions. The learner should ask as many questions as possible during this phase so they understand why they are doing what they are doing and can update their notes ready for phase 3. This phase allows those who learn by doing to get hands on.
3) You show me - The learner will complete the task, talking as much as possible to describe what they are doing and why they are doing it.
4) You do, I review - The learner will complete the task independently with the trainer reviewing once complete.
Systems & Processes
There is a great book called The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E.Gerber where he talks about designing systems and processes that are so repeatable that someone with no experience could follow them and provide a consistent quality of service/support. The McDonalds franchise is a great example of this, where they can repeatedly produce a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in around 3 minutes. One of the great benefits of creating a franchise is that it forces a business leader to think about how to make their systems and processes reproducible and this is a huge benefit even if franchising isn’t a chosen business model.
Before taking yourself out of your business, it is important to establish a solid structure and business mechanism that can still function without you. The Entrepreneur Operating System (EOS) provides a framework for a leadership and reporting structure including accountability whilst focusing on each staff member solving issues proactively to move the business forward. There are many other frameworks, but at Stryde we have found EOS to be extremely simple and organised which means everyone in the organisation can understand how to operate within it.
EOS founder Gino Wickman has written several books explaining the process including Traction: Get a grip on your business, which I’d recommend reading if you’re keen to explore how EOS could benefit your business. And no, I don’t get a commission for saying that.
Would Your Business Thrive Without You?
For your business to thrive it needs to grow even when you are not there. This requires a strong team and a marketing machine (this term is for simplicity, but it is relevant whether you are conducting marketing, sales, tendering or applying for grants). If you were sold on the idea of implementing EOS then this can serve as a strong foundation for this approach including having some fantastic marketing data to be able to identify what is or isn’t producing quality revenue opportunities. Then you need to have systems and processes in place for your team to proactively grow.
Building a Strong Team
We’ve already discussed the importance of getting the right people on board with good recruitment and training. This continues to be a prerequisite to having a thriving business, but it’s now important to have a team who are leaders and managers in their own right and have been given responsibility and accountability to make decisions. These decisions could be about new sales, account management, billing queries or anything related to the financial aspects of the business.
Using the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)
EOS advocates starting with a model that sees the business leader (visionary) trusting an integrator to lead a leadership team of operations, finance/HR and sales/marketing. Although the exact leadership functions will change depending on the business, the majority will be fairly close to this leadership quartet.
At Stryde, we’ve built our business around this model also, and we have evolved our own offering to support businesses who need to implement this structure by becoming their finance lead. One of our experienced team members became finance director for our customers to help develop, organise and support the finance function as the business scales. We help provide the metrics required to have financial clarity whilst also offering an experienced financial perspective to decision making.
Creating your ‘Marketing Machine’
Now on to the marketing machine. A marketing machine is a well-oiled system or process that consistently generates leads, nurtures prospects, and drives sales through various marketing activities.
A marketing machine is created by testing and measuring approaches to generating revenue whilst recording the data behind those approaches in order to identify trends. Once a positive relationship is identified - one that demonstrates conducting a specific activity will produce a reliable and consistent outcome - a business can double down the resources they invest in that activity.
In order to replace yourself enough to thrive and grow whilst you are not there, you need at least one of these positive relationships identified, but ideally you should look for three or more. What works in business one day can easily change in an instant due to macro events (a pandemic, recession, nearby war, political unrest) or more micro events (legislation affecting your industry prevents the approach, the relationship only works on one product that is no longer desired, a software you use changes, an algorithm is updated somewhere). Because of this ever changing business world, having multiple approaches that provide reproducible results can somewhat mitigate these risks.
Hiring within the sales and marketing leadership role requires finding someone who can continue this testing and measuring approach to find new ways to grow the business that are reproducible and scalable.
In order to replace yourself in your business and create a business that both survives and thrives without you, a combination of people, systems, processes, and mindset are required.
It’s worth looking at an operating system for your business so there is consistency in everyone's approach within the business and to help you lay a solid foundation for an organised and metric driven business. We use EOS (The Entrepreneur Operating System), but there are other systems that can work well too.
In terms of your people, no matter how many times you’re told as a business owner that your people are your biggest asset, it’s only in the process of attempting to replace yourself that this truly comes to the forefront of thoughts; great people are a catalyst for this process. And if you’re interested in ensuring you’ve got a well organised, scalable finance function overseen by an experienced person, please get in touch.