One of my clients nearly buried his semi-truck dealership because he thought that as the owner, he was responsible for his business. For years, he always managed to be successful by doing it all himself. He would work longer hours, push himself harder, dig in, and roll up his sleeves. With enough work, he could deliver results and move his company forward. He was putting his entire company on his back.
But the dealership grew to a point where, no matter how hard he worked, he couldn’t make an impact anymore. There were just too many moving parts, and he was spread too thin among them.
As a result, the dealership spun into organizational chaos. The owner would step in and cut off the ownership of other people’s work and responsibilities. Then he would go off and get involved in something else, and balls would drop.
It was demoralizing to his employees, because they didn’t know what their roles were.
This owner needed to realize that his business was bigger than him, and that he needed others to help make the company successful.
As Gino Wickman says in his book Traction, you are not your company—you need to let it become its own entity. Many business owners have a hard time letting go, because their business feels like an extension of themselves. They may even be answering their own phones.
But if you want to see your company become its best and live up to its fullest potential, that means delegating responsibilities to capable people.
No single person can be everything that a company needs—not even the founder. And that’s what my client eventually realized. He finally acknowledged that he had to let go of certain roles and responsibilities that he’d been clinging to. It was a painful move, because he knew everything about his company more intimately than anyone else.
Often, not letting go is an issue of trust. How can you know that the people you delegate to are going to make the decisions you would make, or do the things you would do?
The truth is, they won’t. And that’s probably a good thing. Businesses flourish when they have multiple qualified decision-makers, but they hit the ceiling early when only one person is responsible for important decisions. The success of your organization depends on your leadership team, and your managers, to do things differently than you would do them.
But you do need a team you can trust, because you can’t truly let go if you don’t trust your team.
You can nurture trust by communicating the expectations and responsibilities of your team members, and the measurements for their success. You should also provide accountability, to help ensure the expectations are met. At the same time, give them the freedom to fulfill those expectations as they see fit, so that they have the autonomy to own their roles and remain engaged with their work.
This combination of clear expectations, accountability, and autonomy is key to developing the trust you need to let go and delegate responsibilities. It was key for my client as well. It took a lot of trust and a bit of blind faith in his leaders, but he divvied up certain responsibilities to his Service leader and his Parts leader. He established clear accountability, communications, and expectations, and he let go.
This was two years ago. Since that moment, the dealership has continued to set record sales and profits.
It’s a lot easier to let go of the vine when you have some great tools you can implement. Here are a few of the best tools I’ve seen for delegating responsibilities.
The list goes on, but you probably get the point. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to outsource tasks you don’t need to take on.
The most successful businesses are the ones whose owners know their limitations, and trust others enough to delegate important work. They communicate expectations, keep their people accountable, and outsource responsibilities such as phone services.
Are you still clinging to the vine? Perhaps it’s time to trust your team, and to find ways to outsource.