Sunday, January 8, 2012

Separation Anxiety

Business Owners Who Smother Their Company’s Success By Not Being Able To Let Go
I have dedicated a large portion of my career dealing with start-ups and young technology companies that have immense potential but fail to translate the potential into revenue. In many of these cases, the shortcoming did not lie in the product offering but predominantly on the inability of the business owner to disconnect himself from almost every operational aspect of the company. The separation anxiety that small business owners feel is understandable, since the early stages they have had to play many roles within the company in order to compensate for lack of resources and to ensure consistency in the deployment of the vision and direction. Knowing when to start letting go is the challenge. Holding on too tight can lead to the smothering of the company’s potential.

Management Challenges
Management entering into a small business environment has many challenges to face. Small business endeavors present an opportunity to enter into potentially profitable business ventures in the early stages. Successful execution of commercialization and growth management strategies can lead to lucrative returns, recognition and the potential for upward movement in management with a company on the fast track to success. Visions of building the giant are distorted in many cases with internal barriers that hinder the success of the company such as, owner centric leadership, reduced productivity related to owner intervention, and selective employment.

Owner Centric Leadership

As the company begins to mature into a viable business venture, the decentralization of control and delegation of responsibility to those best capable and qualified is required to optimize efficiency and effectiveness in each aspect of the business. There in lies the predicament. Many business owners are reluctant to give up any type of control within their organization. Delegated responsibilities turns into a micro-managed environment that is under productive due to additional responsibilities associated with the incessant involvement of the business owner. 

Reduced Productivity

I am a revenue catalyst by profession, so by the nature of my industry, I primarily deal with technology company owners that are extremely technical but lack the sales, marketing, and business development skills required in commercializing their product or service to gain initial critical mass. Time spent on additional reporting, constant meetings or consistent conversations regarding sales opportunities, presence of owners at client meeting, and input based on intuition rather than factual understanding of the clients relationship, environment, and the sales process, just to name few, may create rifts between management and the owners while dispersing the team cohesiveness which if fundamental to the prosperity of a young technology company.

Selective Employment

Selective employment is also an issue that should be addressed early on. Many business owners consciously or sub-consciously select non threatening candidates to fill positions within their company. The employment process is also very selective, only hiring those who are willing to adhere to the operational status quo rather than new innovative, aggressive and competent individuals who will rock the boat. Creating an environment of low productivity management that satisfies the personal ego of the business owner rather than the best interest of the company. This also cultivates a high churn employment status for the company, not allowing for stability in the fundamental activities.

Realistically Gauging the Viability of an Opportunity

The tangible value of any opportunity must be evaluated against the opportunity cost. Not every venture can be viable. Being selective is important, knowing if and when to walk away can be pivotal in building a successful career. Time is a valuable asset that must be used efficiently to further advance towards goals and objectives you have set for yourself. Ventures that turn sour can lead to negative marks on your career history as well as lost time in the development of your career. To avoid the pitfalls; set boundaries, define roles, responsibilities, decision making authority, and team selection early in the process.

Setting the Boundaries Early
Setting boundaries early in the process can help to surface potential pitfalls. Defining agreements to specific goals, project deliverables, timelines, reporting relationships, and account management procedures will help define the working relationship but also can surface owner resistance early in the process. Obstacles at this stage should trigger an alert to the viability of the business venture.

Decentralization of Control and Delegation of Responsibility

Defining the role, responsibilities and decision making authority from the offset will let you gauge the responsiveness of the business owner for decentralization of control and openness for delegation of responsibility to others with a degree of autonomy. This will also provide for future flexibility as the company expands. The resistance of the business owner in regards to control over your area of expertise should inform you of potential roadblocks that can lie ahead.

Being Proactive in the Employment Selection Process

As management, you are responsible to deliver value according to your area of responsibility. Having the right resources in place to materialize the value is also your responsibility. Selection of personnel to join your team or individuals joining teams that impact your responsibilities should have input from you prior to being selected. This process will also build team cohesiveness which is fundamental to the success of any business but weighs heavily on the small businesses environment.

Leaders Define their Place
Leaders define their place and value within the organization by taking the steps required to build an environment that facilitates their role and responsibilities by anticipating roadblock, finding solutions and taking the necessary steps to ensure a workable environment that allow for success. These are not management theories but real experiences from my vault. Former mistakes converted into learning experiences or guidelines. This article is to present the obstacles that you may face when dealing with small business owners. Thoughts to ponder

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