A few months ago, my partners and I had an internal meeting with our three most senior employees, all of whom have been with us for years and now manage employees of their own.
The purpose of the meeting was to plan for what we anticipated (correctly) to be an extraordinarily busy spring for Detailed Image. January, typically our slowest month of the year, had been one of our largest sales months in company history. Seemingly our Spring season would reach volumes that were many magnitudes more than what we were experiencing just a few years ago.
We knew that we were likely entering another new phase of the business, something we’ve experienced in the past. Every business owner will tell you that the same things that work when you’re doing $10k in sales don’t work when you hit $100k. The same happens when you go from $100k to $1 million, and so on.
The challenge for the six of us is that we all have management responsibilities while also still needing to find time to produce tangible work. In my case, ongoing development for Detailed Image is a full-time job in and of itself. Add in the owner and management responsibilities, along with trying to get a new venture in Notify My Team off the ground, and you can see how it could snowball into something overwhelming and unsustainable. The same applied to the other five people at that meeting.
The solution we proposed was a new set of guidelines for all of us to follow. For instance, we turned over virtually all day-to-day decision making at our warehouse to our senior employees. They were already running the operations, but we hadn’t explicitly empowered them to make all of those decisions without consulting us, especially when it came to spending money.
Another example is that I set up weekly 15-30 minute meetings with each of them to check in and go over anything that they want to discuss. The goal was to ensure that we’re all touching base routinely at a regularly scheduled time. Everyone feels empowered and not micro-managed, but also gets the support that they need.
And it’s worked (at least from my vantage point).
Which is a relief, because there are no guarantees. Some people love being involved in the startup phase, but can’t successfully delegate to other people. Similarly, some people can produce great work, but struggle to do so while managing others or working in a team.
For us as owners, these phases are always challenging. You’re giving up control. You’re letting others make decisions that might not be the same decision that you would have made. But over time I’ve learned to embrace these challenges. They’re necessary if you want to retain great employees. They’re necessary if you want to continue to grow and take on new things. And they’re necessary if you want to have a reasonable work-life balance.