Business course

Founders need to know when to let go for strategic reasons

It’s natural for a founder or entrepreneur to want to keep one hand on the wheel – their vision, capabilities and close relationships have brought the company to this point of success.

But retaining operational control can leave little time to chart a course that will shape the next leg of the journey.

When it comes to managing their day-to-day business and planning a long-term strategy, time is the enemy of those who do everything themselves.

Active business leaders hold key relationships tightly while building a team around them that they trust, but three-quarters of respondents to a recent survey believe there are parts of the business that they cannot delegate.

Pitcher Partners 2022 Commercial Radar Reportanalyzing mid-market companies driving the Australian economy, shows that 68% of decision-makers want to be able to spend more time on long-term planning and thinking about big-picture decisions for the business.

But many feel they can’t devote the necessary time to planning because their attention is taken up by urgent, day-to-day matters — 64% say this is the biggest obstacle.

Staff, time and support

Delegating or outsourcing day-to-day tasks is key to saving time to plan big-picture decisions. So what’s holding business leaders back?

One of the problems is high staff turnover and a corresponding lack of trust among leaders for delegation.

As staff turnover increases, especially when middle managers or key personnel leave, it becomes more difficult to share tasks that require deep knowledge and nuance.

A second is a lack of time and internal capacity. Too much time has been spent weathering the storm that swept across the horizon this week, limiting the ability of business leaders to step back.

To meet this challenge, it is essential to move from reactive behavior to more proactive planning that allows certainty out of uncertainty.

But a third problem is simply a lack of support.

A surprisingly high number of leaders report feeling unable to access the right skills and capabilities to answer complex strategic questions.

Nearly half of businesses (49%) say they struggle to find helpful advice.

Who can businesses trust for objective advice? This is where outreach to external support partners becomes vital.

A third of business leaders want outside help to provide ideas and advice to help their business, and in many cases they seek this through business networks as much or more than external advisors.

COVID-19 has shown businesses that their employees can work effectively outside of a central location – and businesses are realizing that their operation’s functions don’t need to be under the same roof either, especially in period of labor shortage.

Where in the past every company needed its own CFO, for example, in this market it is often more practical to outsource the finance function to a company that specializes in this area, rather than competing on the open market for a position in high demand.

Similarly, companies need to consider whether outsourcing other parts of their strategy – appointing a virtual strategic director, for example, or outsourcing strategic IT projects – could alleviate pressure on the leadership.

Likewise, building stronger relationships with advisors and getting regular support can increase the number of wise people around the table when tough decisions need to be made.

There is also great value in peer support. Time invested in building professional networks pays off through better access and connections, expanded perspectives, and the ability to learn more about how others are dealing with the same challenges.

It’s never easy for leaders to delegate or cede control, but by having a pool of professional prospects at their fingertips, the burden doesn’t have to be borne alone.