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Want to Grow Your Business? Get Out of the Way

August 22, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228023

Some entrepreneurs see 20-hour days as the entry-fee to success. Others believe they will succeed by working smart, not hard. In either case, as a business grows, the founder's job becomes too large for one person. You quickly find yourself working in the business, and not on the business.

Successful entrepreneurs know how to let go by handing over authority and responsibility to someone else.

At the start of this year, I handed over leadership of crowdSPRING's engineering team to one of our senior engineers, Adriano Marques. I led the engineering team since founding the company in 2007. I enjoyed working with the engineers -- they've been incredible teachers and teammates. But as I reflected last fall on my responsibilities, I realized I was too deeply involved in day-to-day technical issues. As a result, I could not devote enough attention to other important areas and that became a problem. To help my company grow, I had to let go.

Letting go is one of the most difficult challenges for an entrepreneur. Some fear losing control. Others believe they are the only ones who can do the job right. Many think there's not enough time to properly train another person.

Those are legitimate and normal fears. But they are unfounded if you properly prepare and delegate wisely.

Some entrepreneurs try to compensate for their fear of letting go by retaining authority, but giving up responsibility. That rarely works. I knew that to succeed, I would need to turn over both the authority and responsibility for the engineering team.

Almost a year earlier, I started giving Adriano incremental responsibility and authority over discrete areas involved in managing the team. For example, last year, he took over the analysis of our weekly engineering sprints and communicated with the team about their individual and collective performance in those sprints.

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By the time I decided to turn over full leadership of our engineering team, I was confident he was ready, knew what needed to be done, when and to what standard. We worked closely for several years, but more importantly, spent many months before he took over the team, discussing our combined vision, assessing problem areas and debating the technical direction for our infrastructure and product.

One of the most important things to discuss with someone taking over a managerial responsibility is whether they have the time, resources and support needed to get the job done right.
Be sure to discuss your expectations and goals and to instill a sense of pride and ownership over the responsibilities being passed on.

Discuss ways to collaboratively measure and reward success, both on the individual and team levels.

In crowdSPRING's case, Adriano knew I would not just abandon him once I turned over control of the engineering team. As with everyone in the company, I provide regular feedback that’s positive when they do something well and constructive when they don't.

Allow for room for mistakes. I made many mistakes while learning to manage the engineering team and I made it clear that while I expected my successor to always do his best, I did not expect him to be perfect. I also made it clear that I would not jump in and assume control if he made a mistake. It was his team – he had full authority and responsibility over the team.

Once Adriano was comfortable, my only job was to get out of his way.

If you want to grow your business, you must learn how to let go.