Leveraging and Letting Go – Stage 4 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey
Stage 4 of the Entrepreneur’s Journey is where you work to leverage and let go so you remove yourself from your business. To me, this is one of the most exciting stages in the journey.
So far you have built a business, a product line, a customer base and relationships with employees, partners, vendors, supporters, customers and investors.
You’ve created a great network of people who can help you when you need help. It’s now time to leverage everything you’ve learned, everything you’ve built, everything you’ve bought and everything you’ve attracted.
This is one of the stages where your activities depend on your business and what you’ve already built and what your intentions are for the future.
If you are a solopreneur, it could be where you start building your team, if you haven’t done so already.
If you have a traditional business, you likely hired people when you started your business and you’ve learned what to do and what not to do as an employer. Now it’s time to ensure you have the right people onboard with job descriptions which challenge them to grow while also tapping into their interests and strengths.
Regardless of where you are at now and how you intend to achieve Stage 5 — Freedom — navigating through Stage 4 successfully requires a good solid foundation, with excellent processes, procedures, Impact Performance Measures and great relationships.
You need to set up your business as if you were about to franchise it.
Lessons Learned As A McDonald’s Manager
I learned the principles of franchising a gazillion years ago as a McDonald’s Manager, my first job after college. I wasn’t a great McDonald’s Manager — in fact, I was probably one of the low-end of the middle 60% or the high-end of the bottom 20% in terms of my people skills at that time. However, I excelled at forecasting and planning which is something I’m still passionate about.
Each role you take on during your career leaves something you remember for years. For me, the biggest take-away from my couple of years at McDonald’s was breaking every single task into step by step parts, which were not to be deviated from.
I took this practice with me to Whistler Mountain, where I documented every single task we did in the Data Processing Department into step by step guides.
I was so adept at this, I was able to hand the manual to anyone and the task could be completed from start to finish without needing any assistance. When we were all-hands-on-deck at critical points in the year — e.g. getting the season’s passes printed and sent to the guests or getting the income tax documents to the employees — I was able to bring other managers into my department and they’d be productive almost immediately.
The best part, though, was that I delegated my job away and skied for a couple of hours most days, being an ambassador for the mountain. (I was filling in for my boss while she was on maternity leave when I did this, which basically made us both partially redundant! Oops)
I use the same practice with my own business — step by step, this is how you do “everything” from processing orders to responding to sales leads and if something comes up that we don’t have a process for, we create it and document it for the next time.
As we evolve and change processes, the manuals are updated by my team — not by me. Once again, having everything documented enables me to delegate my day-to-day job away.
The biggest benefit to doing all of this, for me personally so far, was when my husband, children and mother-in-law spent 4 weeks in Europe one summer while my team back at the office took care of the business. Of course, I checked in daily but I didn’t need to work — just check what was going on remotely, coach and guide. It was a summer to remember forever. It was also the last big trip we had with my mother-in-law. I am so grateful for having the freedom to do this.
As you develop your own ways to leverage and let go, remember that you need practices, processes, procedures and guidelines that are followed with no exceptions. Now is a great time to review all practices, processes, procedures and guidelines to ensure they are customer friendly, employee friendly and financial statement friendly. Use the T-Form to ask customers, employees, partners, supporters, vendors and investors for their perspective.
Also, identify areas where employees are empowered to make an executive decision without checking in first. Give them parameters for the latitude and then mentor them for how, when and why to make the decision and expectations about the results. Furthermore, tell them what will happen if they make a decision which turns out to be not very wise.
Failure is inevitable when we grow — you, as the entrepreneur, need to be sure you’ve powerfully set up the framework so the failures are minor and quickly resolved and learned from.
Once you have everything in place, your role changes to that of a “mentor” and “coach” who oversees rather than does. It’s a beautiful situation to be in!
Along the way, you have created great value in your business. You have a great team of people who support your vision, purpose, passion, core values and strategy. You have acquired knowledge, experiences and perspective. You have developed best practices, Impactful Performance Measures, procedures and processes. You have purchased or leased equipment, supplies, buildings etc.
By tapping into all of these resources, you can add additional revenue streams while you take steps to wean the business from needing you on a day by day basis.
The more you can leverage, the stronger your business can be — provided, of course, what you choose to leverage fits in with your culture, strategy, vision and purpose.
Stage 4 is also an extremely critical stage in the evolution of the business and in your Entrepreneurial Journey.
Many entrepreneurs screw up this process. I didn’t have an easy time of it myself. I trusted employees who I should not have trusted. I gave latitude to employees who didn’t deserve it. I didn’t have the framework in place with expectations, accountability, Impactful Performance Measures, go-to-resources or standards. I also didn’t have the experience — or was it guts? — to step in and stop undesirable and damaging behavior quickly and powerfully.
Although my team has many tools you can use to build the framework for a strong business, ultimately it is the people who you hire who deliver performance results, so choose your people wisely and be sure they know what is expected of them.
As Entrepreneurs who are going to the end of this journey, we are constantly weaning the business away from needing us to make decisions and perform tasks but we can never be completely hand-off the business until we sell. Furthermore, we should never give people more responsibilities than they are capable of achieving. We have to stay on top of the results and spot check — daily, preferably, weekly at an absolute minimum.
This is where being an Enlightened Capitalist™ is a benefit. We are able to leverage the hard work we have done along the way to build a strong culture, with engaged employees who know what is expected and how they will be appreciated, recognized and rewarded for their efforts. It’s where the systems, processes, procedures and honest multi-way communication pays off. It’s where the effort to build community internally and externally produces results. It’s where having a higher purpose which is built into our business DNA pays off in spades.
What Not to Do
In addition to my own lessons learned while leveraging and letting go, there are many other examples. Some are known publicly and used as case studies, others are talked about quietly.
There was a classic example of how-not-to-do-it in our community. This entrepreneur had created a franchise and he’d done quite well. The business had grown by leaps and bounds. He got a bit of a reputation in the community for believing rules, laws and bylaws applied to everyone but him (which is why I started following what he did). Eventually, he handed over the business to one of his managers while he went on an extended holiday. When he returned, the business was in shambles. I don’t have the details of what happened but obviously the business needed the entrepreneur and letting go, the way he did, was a mistake.
My Dad had a similar nightmare. In his case, he had a medical issue — he became allergic to what he made. His biggest problem was that he liked to hire apprentices and when he was in hospital they didn’t know how to run the business. My Mom, who looked after the administration and helped in the shop, was so worried about my Dad that she didn’t pay attention to what was going on. My sister, who was in high school at the time was given the role of running the business (I was up in Whistler delegating away my job at the time). Talk about a case of what not to do but they hadn’t set themselves up with an alternative. However, that wasn’t the worst part — one of the apprentices had set-up shop after hours and was making product which he sold himself out of his car. Wholesale clients were lost, retail customers were lost, profit evaporated and the business essentially became insolvent before the doctors had determined what was wrong with my Dad.
If you are intending to leverage and let-go, let these stories be a reminder that it’s a tricky time in the Entrepreneur’s Journey. Through my experiences, if you are intending to do this at any point — or even if you intend to get your Freedom by selling — you must start your business setting yourself up for this scenario.
You must have strong pillars for your platform, which is what we teach in the Enlightened Capitalist™ community. And always, always, always, hire the best people for the job, tell them what you expect, hold them accountable, keep a firm finger on the Impactful Performance Measures they produce, be transparent and authentic, communicate regularly, treat your employees well — help them grow by mentoring them, give them challenges to stretch them, appreciate, recognize, reward and give them reasons to be inspired. Expect greatness from your team. Treat your customers like VIPs and never take your eye off what’s happening in the marketplace.
… and yes I do think this is one of the most exciting times in an Entrepreneur’s Journey…. because if they’ve done things “properly” along the way, the right people will be onboard, doing the right things to deliver the vision, purpose, higher purpose and core values even when you aren’t there. That’s culture, systems and relationships working in your favour!
Our Role Is To Guide You On Your Journey
My personal purpose is that I’ve been Chosen to Reinvent Lives Globally.
The purpose and higher purpose of my brands is to Reinvent Business to Transform Lives.
My vision includes changing the dialogue about how business is conducted. As the leader, I am passionate about bringing humanity back to business by tapping into the desires and potential of people so that they willingly support the purpose, vision, core values, strategy and goals of the business. With engaged people profit increases and it’s that profit (or a percentage of it) which transforms lives.
I’m leading a movement to bring Enlightened Capitalist™ concepts to the mainstream. Our planet, our economy, our communities and we, personally, need this to happen sooner rather than later. Join us…
Carol Wain is the founder and leader of many brands which help leaders to create more profitable businesses that transform lives and positively impact our planet. She is an author, speaker, trusted advisor and mentor who won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.
Carol is passionate about reinventing business to become a force for good — positive businesses which respect, appreciate, encourage and support the right employees who voluntarily use their discretionary effort to bring the vision, purpose, platform, personality, passion and core values to life; businesses which create useful, meaningful and valuable products, services and experiences which improve the lives of people; and businesses which support communities, take a stand and have a higher-purpose.
For more information visit http://CarolWain.com, http://EnlightenedCapitalist.org and http://WorldIncentiveNetwork.com