Entrepreneurship and fatherhood have a lot in common. When an idea is born, in its infancy it’s a lot more about theory than practice. The same is true with fatherhood. When my twins were born, it was clear to me that they were the most intelligent, most beautiful, and most charismatic babies that had ever been born.
Ideas become businesses, and babies become toddlers. They start to develop their own personalities. Sometimes they make messes, but all in all, you love them and their imperfections.
My children are turning 12 next week. Now I’m completely convinced I’m way out of my league. I’ve been working hard to be a good dad, but they are growing up, listening less and doing more on their own. It’s rewarding to see the two little minds I’ve created, but frustrating as I gradually lose control over the people they will become.
Businesses are similar. An idea evolves and becomes bigger than it was. We have to realign our goals to fall within our strengths and weaknesses. Our lofty dreams of changing the world become tempered by the realities of making a living.
After a time, your business can outgrow your ability to manage it. You no longer make every decision. You’re the visionary, but others must carry out the operations and begin to make decisions without your input.
This is a healthy evolution, both for fathers and entrepreneurs.
There’s one big difference, however. Your children won’t stop growing. Trust me, I’ve tried. But, no matter how much I’d like them to remain my little kids forever, they continue to grow into their own young personas. They start making decisions on their own, without my input, and sometimes contrary to my own thinking.
I still give them a vision of their future, but now it’s combined with their own experience, motivations and objectives.
It’s good. It’s healthy. I’m learning to be the father of teenagers, and that means learning to let go.
A young company however can be stifled by their own CEO. Being an active participant in your business is one thing, but growth will become mired by the micromanaging CEO.
It’s your baby, but you must let it grow up.
Here are my top three tips to allow your business to move into adolescence.
Focus on values – just like your children, the best thing you can do is create a core set of values that guide their judgment in the future. Psychologists tell us that our value system is well-established by age 5. During those first five years you do more parenting than you will ever do for the duration of your life, whether you like it or not. Lessons learned early sculpt the people your children will become. The same is true for your organization. Creating a strong sense of values and reinforcing those values over time will help sculpt the organization your company will become.
Hire outstanding people – The best thing you can do for business growth is to find people with great talent and give them the ability to exercise that talent. Many CEOs make the mistake of hiring people whom they like and have similar skills. Ironically, what most CEOs need is someone who complements them. Find someone that possesses abilities that you don’t. If you’re great at sales, hire great operations people. If you’re good at product development, let someone else manage the finances. If you aren’t good at finding people that complement you, maybe the first person you should hire is a human resources expert.
Chart the course – An entrepreneur should be a visionary. They should look beyond the horizon. Don’t get caught up reading the maps or tending the sails. Visionaries are those who not only can see the future, but can point others in the right direction. Share your vision and let your crew do their jobs to get you to your destination.
Letting go is frightening for entrepreneurs, and downright terrifying for fathers, but to both it’s absolutely necessary.