Own the Business, Don’t Let It Own You


There are several proven strategies to run a successful enterpriseBut what if the business runs you? Scott McCulloch investigates.

“Own the businessdon’t let the business own you.” That’s a powerful statement.  

What does it really mean? Some owners answer by asking a question.  

Here’s one: If you decided to step away from your family business for a week or a month, what would happen? Would the business thrive or suffer catastrophic failure? 

Many owners recount how they’ve spent years learning how to step back and let the business run without them. So what’s the secret recipe?  

In order for your business to work for you, you need to make yourself redundant and replaceable,” says Richard Fertigchief executive of three companies and who once led a $4 billion hedge fund.  

For your business to work for you, you need to make yourself replaceable.

To reach those goals, Fertig thought deeply about two things: what he wanted to do and what he was uniquely qualified to do. Then he committed himself to doing only those two things 

He had to create a flexible support infrastructure to run the daily operations of his businesses. Fertig embraced innovation, technology and, crucially, enlisted the support of workers to do the work he could not do and would not do. 

Employees are hired for a reason. Let them do their jobs and get out of the way, say experts familiar with the finer points of delegation. 

When team members are empowered (and not micromanaged) they are inspired and productive, says Matt Shoup, an entrepreneur who climbed out $172,000 of debt and went on to found a multimillion-dollar home painting business. 

“There is no better way to see how the company runs without you than leaving it,” Shoup writes in Inc. “When you come back, evaluate where issues arose and unanswered questions linger. These bottlenecks will show you how you can and should empower your team. 

There is no better way to see how the company runs without you than leaving it.

Clay Mathile, author of Run Your Business, Don’t Let It Run You has more than a few tips for family business owners to expand their businesses without working 100 hours a week.  

One nugget centers on direction and leadership. Leadership starts your answer to: “What are your values and how do you want them to show up in the way you work and interact with others?”  

Mathile, who built Iams into a pet foods giant and sold it for $2.3 billion, emphasizes culture and introduces Ben, who asks employees at all levels two questions: “What do we do well? What do we not do well?” 

Mathile learned more from answers to the second question. Ben challenged employees to develop ways to improve company-wide processes. Result? More innovation and productivity, which enabled Mathile to step back and focus on higher value work. 

Family business owners who become professional managers must let their teams do the heavy lifting – the jobs they were hired to do – and build for the future. 

“You need to let go instead of holding on so tightly,” says Mathile in the book. 

And if things go awry? Let failure happensay family business experts. Shoup recalls as his  

leadership team ran things independently, he noticed they did things he would not have. 

Sometimes they found better ways that produced more effective outcomes. When there were small failureshe intervened 

I learned to embrace failure as an opportunity to coach and lead my team. 


Related Links:  

Discovering Family Ownership 

Compass for Entrepreneurial Families 

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