A PARADOX. I CREATE AND I STEP ON THE BRAKE! OR HOW THE OWNER MAY KILL THE GROWTH OF THEIR BUSINESS - 9 BEHAVIOURS WORTH PAYING ATTENTION TO
Those who have never run a business, often dream of it. Those who have, often advise others against it or at least encourage them to reconsider it. I have worked for entrepreneurs, I run a business, I work for company founders – these three perspectives allow me to say that there are no omniscient owners. And running one’s own business in Poland is a genuine challenge in its own right. On top of the pressure caused by the responsibility for the team, cash flow and reputation, there are also areas that we would never have considered when we began our dreams about business. You will hear about many of them from Maciej Filipkowski’s broadcast “Design Your Life” or in the handouts for communities where entrepreneurs speak openly and “without censorship” about their business paths and their private lives.
My clients inspired me to write this text – entrepreneurs whom I mentor, with whom this relationship (generally speaking) is often “bittersweet”, as well as my own path (and mistakes along the way) and interviews on Maciek’s channel, in particular with Piotr Czmoch, Tomasz Karwatka and Zofia Dzik, which have stuck in my mind for their honesty in their approach to their role as entrepreneurs.
In this text, I am not going to accuse anyone, and I do not want to be a smart aleck, because I made many of these mistakes myself, and certainly, I have a long way to go. The article is intended to assist the development of your company, help you in identifying not only what kind of owner but also what kind of leader you are for your teams. The mistakes which I enumerate halt the growth of companies, so it is better to be aware of them. I believe that it is the key to changing attitudes and, consequently, elevating your company to the next level.
- Weak leader – The success of a company depends on whether the owner is a strong, effective leader. This does not mean they have to be authoritarian, nor is it about being friends with everyone. A great leader sets the direction for the company’s development, ensures continuous communication and inspires the team to achieve another goal. Being available to the team and ensuring that the operations are not on halt just because the boss is absent from the head office are important. Ambitious and committed employees do not like doing pointless things lacking an objective, they do not want to be bored in the company or deal with useless matters. They need a sense of purpose and being able to exert an impact. They want to grow. The leader’s success will consist in leading them towards growth, whereby his or her business will flourish too.
- The Dunning-Kruger Effect – The less someone knows about a particular field, the more they think they are an expert on it. The more qualified someone is in a particular field, the more they tend to underestimate their skills. Usually, this concerns marketing, sales, HR – i.e., areas populated by lots of self-proclaimed experts. Moreover, in business, this effect often stems from the fact that many owners had to deal with everything themselves at the start of their business path, and only later did they hire contractors, and finally it was time to employ experts. The old ways of working and managing, however, remain. The owner wants to have a say, even more! operate in all areas, although they are not an expert on them. The owner wants to be in control of the things they do not understand. Their comments often focus on the less important detail of the whole, introducing things that were important years ago, and, in the current market realities, do not apply anymore or different solutions are simply better and more effective. This lack of trust in the team’s competence means that experts do not use their experience and feel frustrated. Neither the owner, nor the employees, are satisfied or benefit from it. This way, you can easily lose valuable employees or associates, and keep hiring new ones over and over again, convinced that the previous ones were simply not good enough (is it really their fault?! – it is worth considering). Letting it go and having trust in someone is a great feat in itself. To notice the company’s benefit from the work done by those who are better at what they do – thanks to which, you can focus on the organization’s growth, strategic issues, motivating the best of the best to work with enthusiasm and build up the company’s value.
- Laconic task instructions – Owners operate in a tangle of a thousand various duties and do not have time to describe the task or explain the goal. As a result, many of them, especially those leader types with a dynamic personality, assign a task, convinced that the team needs to figure out what it is all about. Finally, it turns out that the owner meant something totally different. They are frustrated and disappointed, which reinforces their belief that the team is not knowledgeable in what they do, as it is all done wrong, and not the way the owner expects them to. Team members also feel unmotivated because they know how much effort they put into completing their task the best they could, often compiling data from shreds of information. As a result, when facing new challenges, they get stressed to meet the owner’s expectations, and not the challenges dictated by the market. Their guideline, when performing their tasks, is to make the owner happy instead of increasing the market value.
- Frequent changes of heart – Swiftness in reacting to market opportunities is often an excuse to continuously take up new challenges. Owners, visionaries possessing exceptionally developed creativity should watch out for the FOMO (fear of missing out) effect. The change of their decisions and constant undertaking of new tasks without completing previous may be detrimental to the team and business. Both consistency and improvement in the undertaken development path require time for growth and achieving the scale. Businesses and their teams need numerous repetitive processes of improvement through experience – turning the screw in an already functioning system. Changes of the mind with regard to the vision of the company’s operation, adopting new directions may introduce chaos and be destructive. The process of improvement is often a boring and monotonous one for an owner – visionary, yet it is indispensable for success. It works just like any other stage of achieving perfection. Business is like learning to walk or drive a car – with time, it is done in a smooth, agile and effective way without giving much thought to each action. Each business with a reasonable scale of operations requires consistency, focus and continuation of established goals.
- An attempt to do things on your own – The greatest mistake entrepreneurs make is the belief that they can do everything on their own or they know how to complete tasks the best. An entrepreneur possesses qualities allowing them to do most things successfully, but many of them will be accomplished poorly compared to someone focused only on a particular area. By adopting the attitude of “I’ll tell you how to do it”, when their experience is based on previous behaviours and principles that ONCE worked perfectly, an entrepreneur loses the chance to implement considerably more effective measures that have since developed into their business. It is worth realizing that, like any other person, an entrepreneur has one or two talents granted to them by God. And that is really OK – nothing wrong with knowing less than everything. They should know what they are really good at, and as for the rest of the tasks it will be more effective to surround themselves with people who have strengths where they have not. It is a great privilege to be able to work with experts who will contribute to the business growth. Big companies are built on the foundation of using a few strengths, and not on the attempts to do everything by yourself – with such approach, growing your business is simply impossible. Another negative consequence of such an attitude is the subconscious message conveyed to the team that it is not effective, and as a result it loses spirit, enthusiasm and willingness to act independently. Some workers will quit work while the others will follow the directions given passively. The owner will be more tired, frustrated and constantly burdened with tasks for which they do not have time.
- Changing the decision of leaders – The owner, deeming that it is their company and having full freedom of action, is capable of changing the decisions of their managers, without even consulting them. Owing to such situations, businesses have unmotivated managers and frustration with the job and high willingness to change it appear frequently. Whenever decisions require the consent of the owner and their physical participation, organisations – as they grow – become decision-ineffective and, as a result, their growth is inhibited. Despite some leaps ahead, business returns to the level of turnover and problems from a few years ago. There are owners who are aware of their weaknesses in this area and although they want to change it, they still fall into the trap of their habits. It is worth realizing that when we want to develop a healthy business, when we have good people on board, when we have put an effort into employing and remunerating them – it is a crucial element of success to learn a new way of management, to give managers space for making decisions, to change the mode of business control, to find (as the owner) a different strategic role in it – a less operational one. It is worth setting the improvement in managerial and not executive skills as the priority for the owner.
- Excessive visions and plans – Many entrepreneurs join the venture with sky-high visions and plans for huge profits. Unrealistic goals not only damage their credibility but may also turn out to be emotional drainage. It is good to set yourself and your team specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goals. The chances of achieving success overnight are then significantly greater, and they will lead to success in the long term. It is important to engage the team in planning – they will feel bonded with the vision and will understand what to do and why, and what it will lead to. Setting new goals should be based on measures that can be obtained from business operations. When it is clear that in order to be successful in the long term, a company must increase its indices – let’s say – twofold, which means that an employee must at least double their efficiency, it is worth talking to them about how to achieve this, ask what they need, divide the plan into smaller steps and focus on supporting them. For example, in order to achieve higher results, an employee needs an influx of customers, access to data – hear it, do it, see how by streamlining a process or another area in the company, you can give the key team responsible for attaining the result the tools for its implementation. Additionally, plan intermediate goals with the employee, because achieving them will make your staff feel positively motivated. They will see that what you have planned is real. In order to experience continuous progress and expansion, both short-term and long-term ideas on how to achieve the success you envision are needed. Allow the time to do the planning together and regularly validate these plans. Appreciate micro-successes as the journey towards the goal is more important than the goal itself.
- The lost WHY of the company. Your life purpose – The problem lies in not setting any goals other than financial ones. And often there is no goal at all, i.e., the company operates at its own pace. Because of this, exhaustion will be felt, and the employees will be more willing to take up challenges from another employer when offered a job change. When the owner focuses on the money, and not on why they operate, on what the backbone of the company is or what its values are, it does not make their company stand out from the crowd.
There is a reason why employees leave handsomely remunerated corporate jobs to join start-ups, and it is definitely not the money. People want to serve an important purpose over and above receiving a paycheck. Many companies never define their true purpose of existence, and even when the owner has it in mind, they do not communicate it. Explain your company’s purpose beyond making money, and you will create the conditions attracting like-minded employees and customers. An increase in revenues or profit at a certain level will come as the outcome of professed values. Focusing strictly on the financial result makes work appear monotonous and empty. There is no motivation to take up new challenges, to get up on Monday with enthusiasm for work.
- No distancing, back-up power – Many entrepreneurs put aside their personal lives to focus solely on business. Ultimately, both sides suffer from this approach. There is no doubt that the company needs your full attention and effort, but the team needs that attention in certain ways and over short periods of time. By setting life priorities in several spheres, e.g. the company, pursuit of one’s interests and passions, family, and ensuring that each of them has its own space, the owner will naturally come to the conclusion that in order for the company to operate efficiently, it needs: 1. independent leaders to whom he will give space to act (decisions and their execution), make mistakes – just as they used to make and keep making themselves; 2. processes, rhythms, and communication that will allow them (completely egocentrically) to hold control of the business; 3. long-term goals broken down into smaller steps. It is their monitoring and improvement that will keep the team motivated and aware that the company is developing and going in the right direction.
Maintain a balance between your personal and business life and you will achieve better results in both areas. An elite athlete does not train all the time. They follow an appropriate healthy diet, has a rest, takes breaks, has a team supporting them in the analysis of numerous indices and, step by step, they improve them together. He also develops in a field other than their sports discipline, strengthens their psyche, develops concentration, works on calming their mind and distancing. This way of operating allows them to maintain full concentration in key competitions.
All you need to know
The development of any business requires a change in the attitude of the owner and their development. Your role must evolve for your business to achieve growth. However, not every owner is ready for it, and sometimes they feel comfortable with a business operating with themselves engaged in executing plans. When deciding on goals, it is worth realizing that they are closely related to what you will deal with in the future. Persistent owner’s presence at the level of executive involvement in a growing business is highly ineffective and harms you, your employees and the company itself. And a self-steering organization with committed employees remains the stuff of dreams.
If this is your dream, you can make it come true by learning from your management mistakes and finding a way to change your behaviour. Experts supporting you and your company’s development will help you in this process – all you need to do is reach out for them and open up to change.