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Making the Transition from Entrepreneur to Leader
It takes a brave person to become an entrepreneur, and an even braver one to become both an entrepreneur and a leader.
While entrepreneurship relies on a brilliant idea and infinite enthusiasm and motivation to get your idea off the ground, leadership is a whole different game of cards.
You might not realise it at first, but your business idea will eventually become too big for you to handle by yourself. If you’re only just starting out, that may seem hard to believe. Once you’ve made your first sale, and then your second, and your third, you may well reach a place (if you are lucky) where the workload threatens to outpace you.
It’s time to rise to the challenge. You need to make the transition from being an entrepreneur to being a leader — and it’s not going to be easy.
Visualise Where Your Business Will Be
Before you can really start to grow your business and embark on the transition from entrepreneur to a leader, you need to know where your company is headed.
- What’s your company’s vision?
- What are their values?
- What are your long-term goals?
- And how can those be broken down into shorter term goals?
Performance strategist Matt Mayberry believes visualising your success is vital in achieving it: “The bottom line is this: if you can't picture yourself in your own mind being extremely successful, dominating your market, and running a phenomenal business, then chances are you never will.”
Once you know where you want to be, you can begin to plan how you will get there — it’s just like driving a car: you already know your destination and you need to plan your route accordingly.
You will also need to take stock of how your role in the business will transform.
Growing Your Team
The major change that your business is going to undergo is hiring new hands and with that comes a whole different range of responsibilities and skills.
Learning to manage people effectively is a long and arduous road which is full of obstacles. You’ll need to develop a whole different set of skills and tools in order to successfully manage a team.
According to Harvard Business Review, the most important skills involved in managing people are the ability to inspire and motivate, being honest and transparent, the ability to solve problems and analyse issues effectively, being driven to get results, and being a powerful communicator.
If you’re able to develop the right skills and your employees are fully on board with your business and share the same values, you’ll find that you have a close-knit team. However, when you reach around ten or so employees it’s likely that you’ll hit a bottleneck if all the work has to go through you.
The Turning Point
This starts to become impossible. All of the decisions can’t fall at the feet of one person, and in order to ensure that your customers are still receiving the best possible service from you, you’re going to need to scale up and entrust others with decision-making as well.
This is the real turning point in your transition from an entrepreneur to leader.
The transition from entrepreneur to leader involves a change of mindset. You need to make sure that you are always working “on” the business, while other employees are working “in” the business.
Take some time to set both emotional and practical boundaries. As an entrepreneur, you very much were your company; now your team will become your company.
Don’t try to hold all of the power and responsibility as that will only lead to you burning out.
This will inevitably mean that you need to delegate some of your decision-making power to staff who you can trust.
Delegating effectively and trusting in your employees is a critical skill of any great leader, but it’s not an easy one.
Entrepreneur to Leader
Here are some pointers for how to make this transition:
- Let go of your ego. Yes, we said it. Naturally you’ll feel protective of your business — it’s your baby after all — but feeling as though you are the only one who can do things the right way will cause a mental block. Share you knowledge by training employees and enabling them to take on the responsibility.
- Don’t wait for volunteers. It’s a tough truth, but few people will be volunteering to take on more work without being asked (and often the ones that do volunteer aren’t right for the job). The key here is to communicate what needs doing effectively and to assign the best person for the task at hand. Don’t wait around hoping someone will just decide to pitch in.
- Don’t be a micromanager. Once you’ve delegated a task, don’t snoop over your employee’s shoulder as they’re working on it. Set clear expectations for how the results will look and a concrete deadline.
- Share all essential resources. Make sure you have put all of the resources in place to ensure that your employees can succeed at their task without having to wait on further details.
- Patience is a virtue. Remember that this will be just as much of a learning curve for your staff as it is for you. Be patient while they learn to complete these new tasks and leave extra time to account for this.
- Give praise and recognition. When an employee does well, praise them for it. Give credit where credit is due. This will create a positive and productive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated to produce good work.
About the Author
Marc is currently managing director of PlusHR and is a leading reward and performance management specialist.
Sharon is an HR Consultant who is an expert in training business people and leaders to communicate effectively with their employees.