Just because you’ve started a business doesn’t mean you are the best person to run it. Your business needs the best possible person in the top job. And you should be on the lookout for that person, since it may not be you.
When most small businesses are born, they are usually operated by their founders – the entrepreneur or entrepreneurs with the idea, vision and risk appetite to go for it. The founders usually assume the top job by default, with little regard, or choice, about whether they are truly qualified for that position.
Instantly, customers, suppliers and employees all look to the entrepreneur for strategy and day-to-day operating guidance and leadership –the leadership that the business needs to survive and thrive. If your business is like many, actually running it may not be your forte at all, and everyone will benefit if you are willing to demote yourself when the opportunity arises.
Most companies are typically not started by a business expert looking for an idea but, rather, by an idea person discovering a business opportunity. Simple examples of this include the electrician who starts an electrical business, a cyclist who opens a bike shop or a chef who starts a catering company. It is the skilled trade or industry expertise that often leads to the birth of a business, not necessarily an MBA that stumbled upon a catering opportunity.
If, for example, you find yourself owning a manufacturing company, want to spend all of your time on the shop floor and have to be dragged kicking and screaming into finance or marketing meetings, you may recognize this: You were the right person to seize the opportunity and start the business, and have earned your majority shareholder position, but you are holding up growth by not demoting yourself and hiring a more suitable person to be president and chief executive officer.
Don’t fight the obvious, if your natural interest and talents suggest you should be, for instance, the vice-president of manufacturing instead of in the job top. Go ahead and put yourself in that position and hire a replacement as CEO. You were wise enough to hire a bookkeeper to do the books and sales professionals to do the sales, so you should hire a CEO using the same logic.
It’s a bit of an ego hit, no doubt, and it can be awkward at times, having to consult with an outsider on decisions that affect your business. Still, it is absolutely the right thing to do in many circumstances.
After all, you didn’t just buy yourself a job, you started a business – a living and breathing entity that should long survive you and have access to the best people possible for all positions. Not to mention, your business will thrive if you get to spend more time on the things that you are good at and naturally drawn to, and leave the other tasks to a trustworthy replacement.
Although you acquired the top job in your business by default on opening day, it doesn’t mean you should stay there. Exploring alternatives will be valuable to you and your business.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and sold seven businesses.
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