In April 2021, Jeff Mead wrote in Entrepreneur magazine the provocative article “If You're the Lifeblood of Your Business, Then You've Doomed It to Failure.” People who start companies have a really hard time letting go. Delegating responsibility and succession planning don’t come naturally to them, but the sad news is that Mead is, for the most part, correct. If you’re a senior leader and you’re not trying to work yourself out of your job, you’re holding your company back!
We get the question all the time, "When is the right time to begin succession planning?" The time to undertake management and ownership succession planning (they’re very different types of plans, by the way) is the moment you step into that senior leadership position. When you become the CEO, COO, or CFO of your organization, that should trigger your thinking about your eventual succession.
4 Tips for How NOT to be the Lifeblood of Your Company
- Constantly recruit talent. Even if you don't think you have the payroll capacity to bring a new person on board, do it anyway. Find a way to build your bench. FBI’s Dennis Engelbrecht says: “Contractors think they have to be 110% busy 110% of the time!” It would horrify our members if they thought they were going to hire a $100,000 a year person, but he or she wouldn’t be supremely busy from the first minute. Forget that limiting, old-fashioned thinking. If you want to be really successful, hire people smarter than you. Get talent on your team, and you'll be glad you did.
- Plan your next vacation. If you can't completely disconnect from your company for a week or two at a time, you've got a problem. When I say disconnect, I mean you must be free from constant calls, texts, emails and check-ins. To begin your strategic, systematic separation, block off your next vacation. If you're at a point now where you can take a week off, that's great. Schedule your next vacation for six months out and make it for two weeks. If you're at the two-week stage, block off a four-week vacation. To plan for your succession, you've got to disconnect. If your company can't get by without you for a week or two at a time, how will they do in the years after you're gone? It's just common sense. Schedule a vacation as your “deadline,” and then work backward from there determining what steps you need to take to be able to be away from your company for an extended period.
- You've got to have a plan. You must have a plan to organize your company, to give it a central purpose, to give it direction. You've got to have a mission, vision and values. You’ve got to have goals and budgets. You've got to have timelines and accountability. Put together a plan; even a poor one is better than none at all. Plan to work yourself out of your job. Don't you want a business that runs smoothly whether you show up or not? Wouldn’t it be great to have the freedom to do the things you love to do but not have to deal with the things that suck the life out of you?
- Start stopping. You've got to stop doing all the routine daily, weekly and monthly tasks and pass them on to other people. If you continue to do them plus all the new ones that hurtle at you as your company grows, you will become a tremendous bottleneck. Mead writes that many CEOs adhere to the “70% rule,” which dictates that a task should be delegated if someone else can perform it 70% as well as you can. That will free up your time and allow you to devote your limited energy to new initiatives and to running a growing, thriving enterprise.
Construction is a tough business for tough people who make tough decisions. One of the toughest tasks is to think critically about what you do, how you do it and when you do it. If you are the lifeblood of your company you're holding it back and you're preventing your company and your people from achieving their fullest potentials.