You Don’t Need to Know Everything

Working out your role in the business is remarkably easy when you start. What’s your job? Simple. Everything.

You’re the MD, the salesman, the invoicing department, credit control, warehouseman, despatch and – last thing on a Friday afternoon – probably the cleaner as well.

And that’s how it stays – until the first member of staff arrives. And then, damn it, more members of staff turn up. And now your role changes – or it should do.

The problem is that none of your new staff can ever care like you care. Chances are that you’re still the best salesman, still the one most committed to credit control, the one who knows what’s in stock without having to check the computer…

But you can’t do it all.

You can’t do it all and stay efficient. You can’t do it all and stay sane. And you very probably can’t do it all and stay married.

So something has to give. And the sooner the better. A point has to come when you relinquish control and trust the people you’ve employed and the training you’ve given them – and let them get on with it.

This is a massive mental step change which I see people struggling with all the time. But your job is to lead: your job is to be focused on the KPIs that make your business viable and profitable – not on how many widgets are in the warehouse.

If you’re going to really build a business you have to aspire to lose some control and not know everything. It should almost be part of your targets for 2014 that you know less about your business at the end of the year than you did at the beginning.

So how do you get the information you need? Simple again. Ask.

In fact, the more you ask questions of the people who now do your old jobs, the better the information you’ll receive. Ask questions of everyone that works for you – because some of the best insights and ideas will come from people who aren’t necessarily at the top of the organisation chart.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions where you might not like the answers. ‘If you were in charge of the business what would you do differently?’ ‘What do you think are the opportunities that we’re missing right now?’

I’m absolutely certain that doing this will help your business grow and develop. And hopefully it will lead you on to the second step change that I’m delighted to see some TAB members starting to wrestle with. That’s the step change where you move from not knowing everything to accepting that you hardly know anything.

But that’s fine: because it means you’ll be concentrating on the metrics that really matter – and on leading your company. And when it comes down to it the job of a leader is simple. It’s to lead: to say, ‘that’s the direction we’re going in. Follow me.’

Yes, it’s a long way from the days when you were everything from the cleaner to the MD. But it’s exactly what your business – and being part of TAB – is all about.


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