September 2, 2014

Small Business Advice

Let staff have some decision-making authority

Jerry Osteryoung | 3/4/2013

Many entrepreneurs spend so much of their time working in the business rather than working on the business. As Michael Gerber said in E-Myth, “If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business — you have a job! The business owner should be devoted to business development, not doing business.”

I have been helping a business that had been in operation for more than 10 years. Its sales had flattened out even though its competitors had seen continued growth. The owner worked a tremendous number of hours. He was usually at work at 6 a.m. and rarely left before 8 p.m. He had not even taken a vacation since the business opened.

He had become increasingly frustrated because he just was not seeing results from all this hard work, and he was ready to sell the business in favor of finding a normal 8-to-5 job.

After spending several days observing the business, the problem became apparent to me. This business owner felt his input on every decision was critical and he had to make sure he OK’d even the smallest one. If he was not there, the business would just fall apart. He obviously did not trust his staff, which operated like robots.

After questioning both he and his staff, I discovered this had been the case since the inception of the business. Behavior that had worked in the early stages of the company when he had to make all the decisions was no longer effective, and it was causing all kinds of problems.

I spent many months coaching this entrepreneur, trying to get him to understand that his job as the owner was not to keep operations running, but to bring in new business.

He finally recognized how he was holding the business back by comparing his decisions to those his staff would have made if they had been given free rein. In almost all respects, the decisions made by his staff were superior to his.

It was a tough challenge but he saw the rewards very quickly. Following these changes, his business was reborn and has shown significant improvement.

Now go out and make sure you are spending most of your time concentrating on bringing in new sales. Your staff should be competent to run the operations while you focus on business development.

You can do this!

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