No, I wasn’t watching the 60s TV version, but I hear the beginning of that show when we are trying to catch old Alfred Hitchcock plays. The Fugitive is always doing various small jobs that won’t call attention to himself. He can’t practice medicine since he is on the run. We laugh at the way this is introduced on the show, but I wasn’t laughing when Mr. Landscape Business Owner and I were talking last week. He was really overwhelmed as he toiled at many jobs.
Why was he in this position? Well, in this case, he appeared to me to be pretty much of a command-and-control person. That’s how most bootstrap business owners must be. They do everything since they can’t afford to hire team members until they have revenue coming in. It took them a while to become reliably profitable so they could set up credit and hire a few key folks. If he had other people’s money to invest, he might hire some strategic team members to build his business. Those people would ideally free him up to grow the business to the next level. Even without additional funding, most business owners with 18 employees (like him) have delegated many jobs to others so others can toil at them.
Unfortunately, Mr. Owner had not really added anyone to act as a second in command. All roads led to the huge traffic jam that he had become. He was signing checks, approving contracts of all sizes, walking jobs with crew members a lot, and generally seemed distracted doing things that could/should have been delegated long ago. So, he was too busy to work on his business to get it to the right gross profit margin. He was too busy toiling at those many little jobs that he wasn’t thinking about developing his leaders, developing his market, or working on any strategic project.
Sometimes I think people tell me these things because they want me to tell them they must cease and desist! Believe me, I will make that strong suggestion. I think he will need help to break his habits of over a decade and to teach him about how to change his culture to one of empowerment. Sadly, it is often a crisis that makes us grow. It has been for me and many I know. He will probably always toil at many jobs until he has a crisis. Then he will realize that his highest and best use is not opening the mail. I suggested he consider hiring a coach to give him honest feedback about letting go of his non-essential tasks and spending a lot more time working on the higher-level issues. I hope he will take some action to make a change both for him and his team members.
If you have graduated from Mr. Owner’s situation and you are thinking about your exit strategy, please give me a call. If you are thinking of selling to an external buyer, now might be your best timing for a while. If you’re want to explore your exit options, buy another company or you bought one and now want to integrate it, call me.
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