Many IT providers and managed services provider (MSP) business owners encounter the same problems that most entrepreneurs do. The biggest and possibly most daunting is reaching a time in the life cycle of their business where they need to decide that they need to work ON the business and not IN the business.
This line of thinking is very difficult for the technology entrepreneur. Most technology practitioners like puzzles. They thrive on the daily opportunity to solve a problem that requires complex thinking and piecing together disparate elements of technology that others can’t even begin to comprehend. Stepping away from that daily challenge is hard to do.
Yet, hard to do or not, addressing the CEO growing pains is still something that many IT providers have to face or else risk putting their business as a whole in a position that could jeopardize its future. Here are a few practical steps to consider while going through the process of firing yourself as a tech.
1. Give Yourself Time
If you’re beginning to feel like it’s time to move away from the trenches and start managing your business, give yourself time. In other words, don’t rush into the change. This is something to take very seriously and can’t be a knee-jerk decision.
2. Seek Counsel
You’re not the first person to go through this; there are other entrepreneurs out there who will give you guidance, whether for free (through organizations like SCORE), through local entrepreneurial networks or consultants. Put your pride to the side and seek help from those who have been there. This process requires knowledge that most entrepreneurs don’t naturally possess.
3. Identify Your Replacement
If you are taking yourself out of the day-to-day of your business, you need to hand off those responsibilities to someone else. Obviously, since it’s work you’ve poured your heart and soul into, you need to find a replacement who can at least come close to your same level of passion and concern. You may need to give your “next in line” some equity so they have a reason to do the kind of job you would demand of yourself.
4. Mentor Your Replacement
Once you find the right person to replace you as a tech, invest in them. It’s not just a money move either. Time, training, insight and basic knowledge transfer are appreciated by employees. These activities also take considerable time to do well. Be patient and refer back to the first item on this list.
5. Cut the Apron Strings
Handing over an important part of your business to someone else is much like letting your children go out into the world. Ultimately, you have to let that person go so they can do the job in their own way, with their own personal touch. At that point, you still need to monitor and mentor but don’t hover. If your replacement doesn’t feel like they have the freedom to do the job with their own spin, then they’ll never meet your expectations.
6. Be Prepared to Fail
Even when you take the time to make what you think is the perfect choice to backfill your position, you may not get the right fit the first time. If you don’t, relax and go back to the drawing board. Examine where you went wrong and adjust accordingly.
Firing yourself to help make room for growth or even basic improvements is a difficult time for any business owner but it’s an exciting opportunity as well. When you are freed up to do things like truly promote your business, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much fun you have building your company from the other side of the desk.
By Gretchen Hoffman