When you start a business, it’s typically because you’re good at something.
A graphic designer might open up a design studio, an accountant might open up an accounting firm, a florist might open a floristry, and the list goes on.
Then, the ball gets rolling and you begin to hire more and more people, and as you grow, you become more and more stretched and you realise you need more internal resources to keep the business moving.
Suddenly, you’ve gone from implementing the work to delegating the work. As more responsibilities fall on your shoulders, you are required to think about so much more than the workload for your clients. You’ve got to think about HR, leave management, onboarding procedures, employee welfare, office space, building a culture and a vision and an environment for your staff where they want to come to work.
Before long, you’re no longer implementing the actual services but instead finding yourself asking the question: ‘How do I become a company owner?’
For my co-founder and I, this all happened within the short space of three-and-a-half years. We went from working on marketing strategies, sourcing the right media channels and doing all the day-to-day tasks, to directing a team of 21 staff, including offshore teams, and pivoting from operation and execution to directing and leading as company owners.
We found we needed a completely new set of skills and encountered many lessons and challenges along the way.
When you start a business, you’re very attached to it. You’ve got to be wholeheartedly invested for it to succeed. But that can also mean it’s hard to step back sometimes and let others take the reins. You want to do it all, but you’ve got to learn to put your trust in others and carry on with what’s on your desk.
Despite all our efforts, at the end of the day, we are only two people. We had to learn to trust the process and the people in our business and focus on empowering them to be independent in their thinking and their opinions.
As a company owner, it’s your job to direct the business, so you’ve got to be constantly filling your head with as much knowledge as possible to steer the ship.
You go from playing the instrument to being the conductor — and the only way to do this effectively is to get advice, surround yourself with the right people, get a business coach, and consume as much content as possible in the way of books, talks, podcasts and videos. On the treadmill, in the car, while you’re picking up the milk for the week — whenever you can, learn what you can.
All in all, the biggest learning curve is learning to let go. You can’t control every little thing within your business despite how badly you want to.
Even if blunders happen, you need to let go of them swiftly. In your pursuit of success, you’ve got to learn fast from mistakes and move on really quickly. You can’t dwell on them but rather pick your team up and carry on.
With some projects, you just need to take a step back. If you don’t, not only do you stunt the growth of the company, but you are also doing a disservice to your clients because they need fresh energy and perspectives. Your clients need a team of people working on their account, not just you.
Transitioning from starting a business to running a company taught me many lessons. It’s an experience that never stops gifting me with teachings and pushing me to grow personally and professionally. As we thrust our business forward, we learn from each other, our team, our clients, and most of all, through the experience each and every day.