Do you need to run the business you own?

This may seem like an odd question but it’s one that I quite often have to ask within small to medium sized businesses.

Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, we ‘big-up’ our strengths and play-down our weaknesses because it either suits us to do so, or maybe we might be a little embarrassed or in denial about the things that perhaps we’re not quite so good at.

That’s ok. But, let me ask you, why are you really running this business? What do you really want to happen in the end? In many cases, the answers often revolve around creating significant value and perhaps exiting at some stage.

Well, if that’s what you really want to do, then in terms of looking at the big picture, everything must be on the table for discussion. And, that includes who steers the ship on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t shoot the messenger

If you’re finding it impossible to consider that someone else calls the shots in ‘your’ business, then you’re not alone. The first reaction in many cases to this discussion ranges from derision to a volley of unintelligible screams. I’ve seen and heard most of them by now!

But, think about it for a minute. When someone provides some external objectivity about your ‘baby’, you may want to cover your ears, but it doesn’t make it untrue. It just may be the case that your undeniable strengths for product design, creativity or logistics may be exactly why you have a great offering for your customers, but that really doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the right person to run the business anymore, when it gets to a certain size.

Let’s also be clear; this has nothing whatsoever to do with ownership. No-one is saying that you have to give that up (or necessarily any part of it). No. It’s just a suggestion that perhaps employing the right person to fill that main role could have a step-change impact on the growth and therefore the value of the business over time. And this is what you want, isn’t it?

Right place, right time

I’ve seen this scenario many times, particularly in software technology businesses, where the ‘main man/woman’ is an outstanding developer, but has poor communications skills, limited sales capabilities, very limited man management skills and non-existent administrative interests.

I’m not going to try and kid you that this is an easy scenario for owners to live with or to come to terms with. It’s not. However, if you really have an open mind to doing the right thing for your business then you need seriously consider this as an option.

And, if a decision is made to appoint someone new? I’ve seen it go really well and horribly badly.

The truth is that if you don’t really buy into the process, it’s over before it’s started. I’ve seen situations where the newbie just gets set up for failure, is undermined every step of the way and ultimately leaves (or is fired) before they ever really had a chance to make a difference. It’s a real shame and just shows ‘lip service’ to the idea with no real commitment.

On the other hand, I’ve seen businesses flourish and grow because the owner who’s stepped aside can now breathe a giant sigh of relief as they no longer have to deal with or manage those aspects of their business that they either didn’t like or were pretty average at. This in turn frees them up to spend even more time on the things where they add the most value to their own business. Not only that but having a fresh perspective from a new senior member of the team is rarely a bad thing. It truly can be a win-win for everyone.

As your business grows, think carefully about what got you to where you are. Then, genuinely, ask yourself if you’re the right person to get it to the next level. You wouldn’t buy a Formula One Team and then insist on being the driver just because you owned the team would you? So, why should it be any different for your business?

Keep your objectivity, be brave, and do the right thing…


Share This Post

Related Articles