The tactics are all too familiar – when you are the one who has built something from scratch, you think you cannot let go. When you know the pain of having to create something from nothing, you do not want to give up easily. You fear no one will understand what you have worked so hard, given your life’s worth, to create. You think others may undermine your authority as the founder. You may even think that until and unless you rule with a firm hand, things will not work.
Well, guess what, you are wrong.
There will be that day when you finally have to let go – we all do. The sooner you keep that end goal in mind, a better entrepreneur you will become. There are zillions of examples around us; men and women who stubbornly clung on to power, position and the companies they created – only to watch it all fade away or lose it often because they were not willing to let go.
The danger of clinging on to the original dream that made you a successful entrepreneur, in the first place, happens when you start assuming – wrongly of course – that you must have a final say in everything - in other words, when you start wearing the robes of a tyrant. The management and the staff may not tell you but will fear you instead. While a firm grip, a firm hand at the helm is always sought, there must be room enough for new ideas and new talent to grow. You should also think about what will become of the company – someday, when you are no longer at the helm. Not to do so is not only selfish but dangerous for the survival of the company as an entity.
The trouble for many business owners is that the business is often a second child – one that they and they alone must take care of. They may have CEOs in place but they have the final say, even though it starts becoming less and less democratic. They become almost childish, picking fights and expressing strong opinions that may not always be in the best interests of the company they built.
Entrepreneurs must learn the art of letting go – the sooner they think about it the better it is for everyone. It may not always be what you want but it is good to groom the takeover team. Some may have children who will take over and others may have senior staff members. The next generation must be genuinely encouraged and empowered to take over the running of the company gradually and need all the support. You can always be hands on but ideally, that must be within the wider context of being a team.
The trouble with most entrepreneurs is that they think and believe that no one knows the company they built like themselves; no one has its interests close to heart. They find it so hard to take a step back, especially when they have built a lifetime creating it, working for it and sustaining it. Yet, taking a step back, while still being active, often allows for healthy growth and better participation.
It is a mindset that entrepreneurs must cultivate – it must be nurtured, it cannot be sprung overnight. This is the reason why some sell their businesses and move on; they would rather it is sold to someone than watching it fail under a new management.
Life after all, is not permanent. We are not here forever. A business often can outlive a founder – survive into generations or even history as some of the multinationals have done, those that originally started off as small-time businesses. But the secret lies in planning your role to minimize within a time frame – and not allow yourself to become a tyrant who only chooses to see things his or her way.
The 21st century has brought on some lasting changes in the corporate world. The company culture as we know is changing. Companies like Google are changing the very foundations of how companies think and operate. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have driven tech-based solutions that have transformed the way we do business, enabling an entire generation of young men and women to explore the redrawn lines of entrepreneurship that is tech-based and operated. All these changes have meant that today, nothing works better for entrepreneurship than flexibility.
And the art of learning to take a step back and watch life pass by! Twenty first century entrepreneurship is also about early retirement, finding other things to do to fill your time and the inclusion of a greater role in community empowerment. All healthy choices for those considering to take a step out of entrepreneurship!
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)