I am not the CEO of this business, which I founded 10 years ago. I am still a director, but I do not run the company. Someone else now calls the shots.
I have found this being the conversation starter for many entrepreneurs, and I am now also talking about it. Some are in disbelief that it can happen, others are expressing fear for me and the future of my company. Others are envious and wondering how to do it.
No matter where the audience falls, this particular move has definitely captured their attention and it looks like a process and a journey I will be sharing a lot this year. I didn’t verbalise it then, but I build this business with the intent that it should be able to run without me.
My first business was very administratively taxing and dependent on me, and I saw how quickly that burnt me out. Granted, Centonomy has had the benefit of my passion (which wasn’t quite there in the first one) but I shied away from making myself the hero of the business.
My entire life has taught me the importance of seasons and never assuming that they are there to stay. You’ve probably transitioned from jobs because that season of your life was over and in the same way it is possible to transition from your business or the role you currently play in your business. This is a different way of thinking especially for founders of SME’s. Here are a couple of realisations that helped me.
What your business needed at the beginning is not what it needs now. Some people like me thrive on ideas, experiments, challenges, and different ways of doing things. It’s not easy at all but looking backwards, there is excitement about it. Changing things on the go and pushing the envelope when you can. Any business needs this no matter what stage it is in.
However, as your business grows, another skill is also needed; structures, processes, operations, management of people, among others. When you are starting out, you can get away with being ad hoc in these areas, but as you grow, you can’t.
Some entrepreneurs I have met are strong in these areas but others are not, and they are dying a slow death trying to be that. They would rather be seeing clients and generating ideas, but not dealing with accounts, performance reviews, operations, schedules among others.
If you are the latter, join the club and accept it. You actually don’t have to be doing everything, and in fact, you are stifling the growth of your business by trying to. Remove your ego out of the way and accept the fact that there are people who can do your so called job better than you. Empower them. Your future CEO could be right under your nose, but you have never allowed her/him to leverage on their strengths.
Nature will always win. You were built a certain way, and it may not be what your company needs as its CEO in this season. However, it doesn’t mean you are irrelevant. Take that same nature and leverage on it.
My nature is creative and I am good at communication. I have been writing articles off the top of my head for years now and still going. That’s what I am bringing back to the business and to other areas that this journey may lead me to. The opportunity cost of not doing this is too high, both for the business and myself.
When you oppose nature, you find yourself experiencing way too many days of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Even the most basic tasks take a Herculean effort to complete. No matter what stage of business you are in, constantly observe yourself. What do you do effortlessly? What gives you energy? When are you in flow (doing a task and time seems to stop moving)? You should do more of that and less of the other stuff because that’s probably what you are good at.
You are less important than you think. I mean this in a good way. If you have built up people, put in the proper structures and handled your fear, the business should be able to go on. Are there any guarantees about the future? No. However, there is an opportunity cost of having things remain the same.