Stop Being the Bottleneck in Your Own Business

By Joe Fuld, an EO DC member and the president of The Campaign Workshop

When I started my company five years ago with a single employee, I did everything. As an entrepreneur, I took the risk to organize, create and manage a business. Running a successful business requires teamwork, a lesson that I learned quickly. It was critical for me to have a perspective on both the employee side and client side of my advertising firm. After I was able to understand that, I realized that it was just not efficient or possible for me to do it all.

My business is an advertising firm, and our work is heavily data-driven. To maximize my time and sustain our success as a company, I started to treat myself as a client. When a creative product comes in, I have a short window to work on it with the team. If I’m on the road or doing sales, and it’s difficult for me to chime in, I have to let it go and let my staff do their jobs. This isn’t easy as an entrepreneur, but I’ve learned from other business owners and mentors that I just can’t do it all. Here are six other lessons I’ve learned about how to let go and stop being the bottleneck:

1. Trust your team to make decisions

It’s better to have someone make a decision you don’t agree with than for no decision to be made at all. I have learned the hard way that no decision due to stagnation, procrastination or malaise, is much worse than healthy differences. You won’t always agree with an employee’s decision at first, but if their intent is good, most of the time you will get an outcome that is different and better than had you done it yourself.

2. Hire people who are better than you

I can’t do everything in my business, so I’ve hired people who can do things I can’t do and who can also do things better than me. They may not be better than me at everything (I still have pride in my work), but they’re certainly better at some things.

3. Allow and ask your team to critique you

Don’t shy away from criticism … how will you get better if you don’t ask and listen? Ask your employees to fill out a survey and answer that question. Take them for a coffee and ask them to open up about your performance; they will tell you. Some of it will be hard to take, but you will be better because of it.

4. Practice listening to your employees

Don’t listen only to what they say, but to what they don’t say. Body language at staff meetings, their approach when they come into work, how they interact with other staff and clients— these are all ways of telling what’s going on in your business.

5. Keep looking for ways to delegate

What else can I get off my plate? I have found that the more I do, the less I can do. So I keep trying to remove stuff from my list.

6. Don’t let anyone be the bottleneck

Just because I ‘m no longer the bottleneck I once was, it does not mean the bottleneck is gone. You need to let people on your team know that they need to delegate, too. Your best employees can become the bottleneck. They are passionate about their work, but they cannot do everything they want to do in the time they have. You need to give them permission to delegate to other team members so it all gets done. Remember— you can’t do it alone, and neither can they.

Joe Fuld is the president of The Campaign Workshop, a political and advocacy advertising agency in Washington, D.C., USA, that provides strategy, digital advertising, content and direct mail services to non-profit and political clients.

Categories: Best Practices FINANCES Lessons Learned members


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