Work on the business, rather than in it
(As originally published in the Financial Post, May 2013)
By Tiki Cheung, GTA Entrepreneurial Winning Women program leader, EY
This is part four of our Entrepreneurial Winning Women series of articles
It’s so easy for an entrepreneur to dedicate their time to building their business. But once the business transitions from start-up phase to growth stage, business owners can no longer be involved in every aspect of the business. In order to take your business to the next level, entrepreneurs need to focus working on the business rather than in it.
As a business owner, you need to allocate your time and energy to focus on strategic priorities and on achieving big goals. That means building a leadership team that you can delegate significant operational responsibilities to, allowing you to focus on developing a strategy to promote the business and envision the future.
However, observers of entrepreneurs say a common trend amongst women entrepreneurs is spending too much time working in the day-to-day operations of the business, and not enough time working on how to grow the business.
Disconnecting emotionally from the business is exactly what experienced entrepreneurs and investors recommend. Brad Feld, co-founder of the Foundry Group and a board member at the US National Center for Women & Information Technology, says this is essential for second-stage entrepreneurs, especially if they are going to take outside capital to grow. Feld was one of the instructors at the Entrepreneurial Winning Women™ 2011 Annual Meeting, a two-day content-driven session that educated the women about issues crucial to scaling, including capital investment and advisory boards. “It is possible,” he assured them, “to separate the experience of building and scaling a business from your own personal identity.”
While it may be hard at first, entrepreneurs must set clear priorities by determining what their end goal is, whether it be an initial public offering (IPO), acquisitions or an exit — and you need to have a team you can trust to back you up.
- “In order to scale, I knew I had to pull myself out of the day-to-day grind of being involved in every aspect of the business. I have completely revised my leadership team structure, so that I can think bigger.”
-- Lisa Bair, Founder and President of Hobart Group Holdings
Many women entrepreneurs in the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program have put in place new management teams designed to free them up to lead. Moreover, they have increased the strategic use of other tools, including business reporting, to give them greater visibility on the state of their companies.
Even if you don’t have a large business, as the owner you are responsible for the strategic planning and vision of the business. If you’re too caught up in the administration of the business, you may miss out on key opportunities to take your business on the path to growth.
“There is no way to book loads of freight personally and still scale the business,” Carole Borden says of her transportation company. She recalls a conversation with judge Howard Brodsky that struck a chord. “Howard talked to me about the need for CEOs to have critical data visible, so we can decide when to observe and when to react.”
By hiring professionals with appropriate experience and by properly delegating functions to your management group, owners can focus on strategic planning and vision for the business. Otherwise, you’ll be too buried in the weeds to see the big picture, and may miss out on the full potential of your business.