Outsourcing From Within

If your company has grown so big that you can’t do all the management by yourself, it’s time to hand over some trust to others. Here’s how.

Outsourcing From Within

Arguably the father of modern business and personal success philosophy, Napoleon Hill said, “First comes thought, then organization of that thought into ideas and plans, then transformation of those plans into reality.” This one sentence concisely describes the essence of the entrepreneurial process — but as many of you have no doubt learned from experience, the devil is in the details.

Many successful entrepreneurs reach a period in their careers that can best be described as frustration. They feel overwhelmed, consumed by mundane tasks and managing emergencies in their business — i.e., they’re putting out what feels like a never-ending string of fires. Inevitably, the entrepreneur in this very common (and hopefully temporary) phase wishes for a return to simpler times, when their business was smaller or when the mission seemed clearer and the day less cluttered. The realization has struck: Somewhere in between that first thought and the state of the business today, things got, well, complicated.

That complication is inevitable as businesses grow, because no matter the original idea, passion or mission, eventually it needs a real organization to become reality. Of course, the more successful or ambitious the idea is, the bigger that organization grows, and the bigger and more complex the organization becomes, the higher the risk becomes of the organization running you rather than the other way around. The path to correcting this lies in systems.

Clock Building

As your business grows, many of the things you once could handle personally now require teams, and things that used to be periodic tasks are now constant. To continue your business’ success without micromanaging every detail, you’ll need to create organizational systems with your team that mirrors the personal habits and approaches that made you so successful.

One of the great management gurus of our time, Jim Collins, called this “clock building.” As the entrepreneur, you may be able to “tell the time” — it was your vision that began the business, after all. But for your organization to grow, you need others to carry that vision forward, and so you must build a clock so that your team can “tell the time” without you.

An example: If you found weekly sales meetings with your people and monthly contests to be successful motivators when you were personally running the sales team, make that an institution within your organization for your new sales manager to follow. Instill it as tradition and standard operating procedure, and in that way, with minimal oversight on your part, your successful methods are being carried forward.

Monitor and Mentor

As your business grows, you have no doubt made every effort to hire the best people you could find for your management team. These people arrived, of course with their own experiences and skill sets. Indeed, they may be specialists and have skills you don’t. But just because they are qualified and smart and committed does not make them you.

Be open to new ideas and approaches new people bring to your company, but balance that with a sculpting hand to ensure that you are molding their approach to fit your style and your vision. Set aside regular times to meet with your top people and check in, set goals and give advice. You are expecting these people to, ideally, prevent the aforementioned “fires” or at least put them out for you.

Measure and Observe

The larger your business becomes, the more removed you will become from its routine activities. Early on, when you were cutting all the checks, you had your finger on the pulse of the budget. When you were on the sales floor, you had an intimate feel for which products and services were hot or cold. An unfortunate consequence of a growing business is the inevitable disconnection from this first-hand, hands-on knowledge.

This is when data becomes your friend. Take steps early to utilize technology that allows you to stay on top of the happenings within your business. Eventually, that data and your management team may be the only day-to-day connection to those things for which you once had a “feel,” so you’ll need to make sure you have the data you need to manage from your new position.

As your business grows, spend some time planning and preparing for the day you might not be or want to be around so much. Growing pains are a great problem to have, but they’re also exhausting. Rather than being in a business where you’re doing everything just to get through the day, solve that problem by building systems.

Practical Application Exercises

To apply the lessons in this article, here are some questions to ask yourself.

Immediately after reading:

  1. What are some good habits I have that my company could benefit from formalizing?
  2. Which aspects of my business am I uniquely adept at managing successfully?
  3. What types of policies can I develop or what kinds of training can I implement that will allow my team to be just as successful in the future as I have been in the past?
  4. What aspects of my business feel most unpredictable or problematic? What are some options at my disposal to encourage and mentor my team to take successful ownership of those aspects?

Three months after reading:

  1. In what ways have I created new organizational systems that reflect my values and approach to my business?
  2. What are the next steps to plan for continued growth?


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