Posts Tagged ‘delegating’

The One Thing You Must Do To Grow Your Business

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Here’s the single biggest thing that I think separates companies which grow successfully from those that don’t.Learning to give up control to grow your business

It’s that the owners of successful businesses understand that they personally will have to change – and they are willing to make those changes.

I said that back in March of this year.

Today, I read about Clay Mathile – who sold his company for $2.3 billion in 1999.

In case, like me, you hadn’t heard of him, he owned “Iams” the pet food company. And he built annual sales from $500,000 in 1970 to $1 Billion in 2012.

For the first 10 years he put all of his energy into growing the business, working 12 to 16 hours a day. Sales reached about $10 million annually.

He realized then that he couldn’t run the business alone. So he hired the best plant manager he could find – so far so good.

But a month later the new plant manager took Mathile out to lunch and asked, “Are you going to let me run the plant?”

That’s when Mathile realized that not only was he unable to let go of control of the company but, worse still, it was an obstacle to the company’s success.

Shortly after that he signed up for a professional management program. In one session he was asked to write all of Iams’ production and manufacturing challenges on white boards.

In another flash of insight, Mathile recognized that he’d created 75% of the problems that were up on the wall.

That’s when he stepped back, looked at what he was doing and learned to let go of his desire to control everything and listen to the experts he had hired.

This was a key part of what allowed him to lead the company to achieve consistently high rates of growth.

Mathile knows from experience that giving up control can be a challenge for entrepreneurs who have poured so much of themselves into their business.

He describes it as not only a shift in how the business owner thinks of his/her role, but also a shift in how they have to behave – in what she or he gets up in the morning and does each day.

“You need to let go instead of holding on so tightly,” says Mathile. “If you don’t bring on expert employees and begin delegating responsibility, you will prevent your business from growing to its full potential.”

Realizing that he had to change must have been difficult for Mathile. But making those changes to his thinking and behaviour must have been excruciating.

He did it and he was successful.

I rest my case.

You can read Catherine Clifford’s article about Clay Mathile here and you’ll find details of Mathile’s new book here.


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A Lesson in Strategy Execution from a Successful Business Owner

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

When I, or other consultants, talk about situations faced by business owners, I’m sure people think, “Yeah, how A lesson in strategy executionwould he know?”

Or they see it as a self-serving pitch. “He has a solution, now he’s inventing a problem to fit it”.

So it’s always great to see an actual business owner talk about their experiences with a problem I’ve identified. It’s even better when they have a well-established reputation – like Jason Fried of 37signals.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the single biggest thing that determined whether or not a company would grow. My opinion, after 16 years working with business owners, is that it’s the owners’ understanding that they have to change and their willingness to do so.

Fried describes Basecamp, their most popular product, as being “critical to our success”. For years, he felt he was the only one who could manage it.

Now he’s handed over day-to-day control of Basecamp to an employee.

Why? Fried gives 2 reasons.

1.  A different kind of leader

First, he’s realized that 37signals’ “continued growth depends on me becoming a different kind of leader – one who is able to see when other people can do a job better than I can”.

How difficult a change is that for an entrepreneur to make? Fried describes letting go as “one of the hardest decisions a business owner ever makes”. I would agree.

So how much risk is involved in letting go? I’ve said many times that there’s a difference between delegating and abdicating.

Fried seems to get that. He’s chosen to take a big leap, but he’s delegating to a long-term employee who has demonstrated initiative, good judgment, reliability and high standards of quality.

And, while the long-term employee will make the final call, Fried will remain in the loop and involved.

2.  Avoiding complacency

The second reason is that Fried realized that he has to make “dozens of decisions, some big, some small about 37signals” every day. And Basecamp is successful, “at the top of its game”.

That combination of being involved in many things and having a major, long running success can lead business owners to take their eye off the ball.

Their time is fully occupied and so it’s easy to become distracted, complacent even, and let the product coast along.

And that’s a recipe for long-term problems.

Fried realized that someone has to be thinking about the company’s premier product 24 hours a day. And, because of his workload, he can no longer do it.

There’s no doubt in my mind that with Fried at the helm, 37signals will continue to grow.

And I’m glad – because we use Basecamp to help clients stay on track when executing their strategies and plans. Turning their wishes and desires into results.

You can read Fried’s article here.


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Replacing Myself

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Our guest this week is Lisa Taylor, President and Founder of Challenge Factory, a company that is changing how Canadians view the aging workforce. See below…..

I am the founder of Challenge Factory, a company that is changing how Canadians view the aging workforce. We talk about trends, demographics and experiential programs that spark innovation and competitive advantage. We work with individuals seeking meaning and satisfaction and the companies looking to employ top talent.

Recently, the business hit a milestone.  It had grown to the point that I needed a dedicated operations manager to oversee the quality of services we deliver and find ways for us to innovate as we grow.

It took several attempts to find the right person. I was, after all, replacing myself for many of the role’s responsibilities.

First, I explored using a virtual assistant and delegating tasks but quickly recognized that I wanted an employee who would be committed to the future and health of the business. Next, I hired a recent graduate thinking I would provide training and they would bring energy, new ideas and curiosity.  Six weeks in, the graduate hire asked for 8 weeks off to travel on a pre-arranged, non-refundable, non-negotiable trip.

Then I found Cayla.

Cayla had experience and came highly recommended. In our initial discussion I was explaining the administrative tasks that would be a part of this job. She responded by saying that she’d do the tasks for the first two months on the job and in the third we would automate whatever we could so that no one had to spend time on tasks that didn’t drive our goals. I swooned.

Next we discussed the more strategic elements of the job. I proudly shared the company history and plans for the next year. She started talking about plans for 2-5 years out and noticed areas where I had been very conservative. “Why don’t we charge for that service? We are the only company in the country that has that expertise. Why give it away?” I started to explain how the company had started and why we initially provided the service as a way for people to see just how different we are. And then I stopped.

I was overcome by a feeling that usually only surfaces when I am talking about my kids.

I am a mother to two boys. When I meet someone new and they ask how old the kids are, I proudly say “7 and 10.”  Most of the time, the response I get is “oh, little guys.” I am always surprised by this reaction. Little guys are the babies we held. Little guys are the toddlers we chased after. Little guys are the boys as they started school and learned to read.  My kids take the TTC, they have a cell phone, they know who Obama is. They are not little to me. Yet, in the scheme of things they are little with many more stages of growth ahead of them. That is what the stranger sees.

And the same is true of how new employees view start-up businesses.

It occurred to me that Cayla and I had radically different views of the company. To me, Challenge Factory is currently the largest and most successful it has ever been. It will continue to grow from here but I am proud of what it has already accomplished.

To Cayla, Challenge Factory is the smallest it will ever be. It is exciting enough to entice her to come and dedicate herself to the company – but not for what it is now. For what, together, we can build it into.

Replacing yourself is not easy. But as parents and business owners we know that our kids and our businesses will only rise to the level of expectation that we set for them.

More about Lisa:
Lisa worked as a strategy and technical consultant at Deloitte and Hewlett Packard. In her last role at Hewlett Packard, Lisa managed a workforce of over 12 consultants and uncovered a nascent trend linking working life expectation, longevity and employee engagement. Stepping away from corporate life, she created Challenge Factory.
Challenge Factory combines the latest demographic-based research with innovative career management practice. It provides highly experiential and practical programs for individuals and organizations. Challenge Factory and its clients have been profiled in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Brandon Sun, HR Reporter, Ottawa Sun, Herald Chronicle, 24Hrs and Canadian Press.
Lisa holds an MB in Strategic Management from the Schulich School of Business, York University. She currently sits on several not-for-profit boards and is an active community volunteer and public speaker.
Lisa has addressed over 400 organizations in Canada, the U.S. and abroad and has a regular careers column in the Toronto Star.

If you would like to contact Lisa, email her at or at 416-721-8494.

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