I have a number of friends and relatives who ran multi-million naira businesses but when the person who founded the business passed on, so did the business. I know the amount of sweat, effort and determination it takes to start, run and grow a business. To see this effort shut down in the blink of an eye, is sad and painful to me, especially because many times, it can be avoided.
In my experience, I have found that the major reasons for this phenomenon is a lack of proper planning (in terms of business structure, people, processes and even succession planning).
As the founder of a business, we may get very passionate and emotionally attached to the business, so much so that we feel that we are the only ones that can adequately manage/run the business. I am guilty of this myself, as I often find myself referring to my business ventures as “my babies”. I have also caught myself saying “Ahh after all this hard work, someone will now just waltz in and take it away from me. NEVER!”
The truth of the matter is this – to build an empire, you must be willing to relinquish control. Look at the multinationals, big businesses and major brands of our time – Coca-cola, Apple, Google, Citi bank, Unilever, First Bank, ExxonMobil, Deloitte, GTB, to name a few. The founders of some of these institutions are long gone YET, the dream, the brand, the vision, the institution lives on! And you know the best part? These institutions still pay out handsome returns to the founders children’s children. These institutions would not have achieved such phenomenal success and stood the test of time if their founders didn’t structure the business properly and at some point, relinquish control.
In running your business, remember you are the one with the dream and the passion. Focus on your strengths (business development, sales and marketing, etc) or the key/most important role in the business and hire competent people to handle the rest (drivers, accountants, admin and data entry staff, logistics officers, etc)
I am a believer of the notion that the business must be able to run on auto pilot (i.e. whether I am there or not). What use would it be if after putting in all the hard work and effort, you are unable to take a break, go on vacations and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I believe that this is one of the motivating factors for venturing out to start a business – flexibility, freedom and of course lots and lots of money!
Our businesses cannot all be Apple overnight, but we can take a step in that direction already.
We can start by:
- Standardizing our business processes such that, ‘person A’ can seamlessly step into the shoes of ‘person B’ and the wheels keep turning.
- Putting structures in place so that everyone is clear about their role in the business, how their role impacts the business and their possible progression path within the business. Nobody wants to feel used. Everybody wants to know that their efforts will be rewarded someday.
- Hiring the right people to fill vacant positions. Do not employ people for emotional or sentimental reasons. Your goal should be to keep the business going because let’s face it, the moment you become an employer of labour, you become responsible for the livelihood of families.
- Grooming successors. Every unit head or “key man” within your business should have an understudy (someone that can potentially fill his shoes). Anything can happen so you must be prepared, to avoid disruptions to the business.
- Monitoring and managing performance. This is a very important part of the “growth and expansion” process, as you start to relinquish control. You must manage performance to ensure that your employees are delivering on the job and performing to acceptable standards. It is also important to reward performance, in order to retain good staff.
Finally, once your business has grown beyond your imagination, don’t be afraid to sell (outright sale or IPOs) and move on to new challenges.
Remember, start now, start small – just do it!
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sam74100