Letting Go

April 14, 2013by David Lupberger0

I have been writing about the importance of organizational systems in your business. You can’t argue against systems-every successful business has them, and you need them to grow. There is another issue that I’ve seldom seen written about, which underlies the effective implementation of effective systems: letting go.

As an owner of a renovation company, you have been involved in every aspect of your business. In the beginning, you were chief cook and bottle washer. If you were good at what you did, your business grew. Most renovation companies, in the past 4 or 5 years, have experienced a great deal of expansion. To help you with the increased workload, you brought employees into your company, and as they brought their time, talent, and energy, your role as an owner began to change. Your role became a strategic one, where your time and energy was spent working, not in the field, but now with employees in managing the efficient and profitable delivery of the products and services your company has sold.

Here is your dilemma: any good business owner is a control freak. Because you have “raised” your company from infancy, you are now responsible for your financial future, as well as the financial future of your employees and their families. It’s hard to let go of day-to-day details. You don’t want to let go. But the reality is this: you are no longer running a one-person operation. You can’t do it all. If you try to do it all, you will experience the personal frustration of never having enough time. You will experience your family’s frustration of never having you at home. You will also experience employee dissatisfaction as you attempt to delegate responsibility to employees but keep going back to help/interfere with the completion of their daily responsibilities. You can’t delegate work without having learned to really let go. If you’ve hired good people, they want to do the job they were hired to do. When you don’t give good people both responsibility and autonomy, they will leave. In this shorthanded labor market, there are ample employment opportunities for qualified people.

The only way you can grow, and survive, mentally and physically, is to effectively delegate the day-to-day details of running your business. You do this by putting your expectations on paper. You do this one step at a time. Start by developing company job descriptions with your staff, then review. Develop standard procedures with your staff, then review. Develop company-wide policies, and review.

It’s easy to understand. It’s harder to do. You don’t have to give up control. You still hold weekly meetings with office, sales, and production people to evaluate employee performance and give direction. But the goal is to monitor employee performance, not control it. Empower your employees to be successful. Let them learn from their mistakes. Mark Scott, of Mark IV Builders, in Cabin John, Maryland, discovered an ingenious way to do just this. In a company meeting, he gave employees permission to tell him to go away whenever his “help” was interfering with their daily duties. In response to his comment, Scott’s employees came up with the idea of “free lunch” cards.

If Scott starts getting too involved with an employee’s daily duties, that employee can hand him one of the cards and Scott has agreed to buy that employee lunch.

Every good remodeling company follows procedures. With homeowners, written expectations eliminate most misunderstandings when you have clearly written job specifications. With trade contractors, it’s clearly written job agreements. With employees, it’s job descriptions, policies, and procedures. Without written procedures, effective delegation is difficult. Once it’s in writing, there’s a lot less gray area.