We can think about having a ‘Go to person’ as a positive, the person you turn to, to get things done. As an owner, if there’s a cloud of mystery over the detail of how everything runs, fears may lurk beneath the surface: What happens if the person leaves, gets sick, or makes demands that will hurt the business? More importantly, what can you do about it?
Rogan Hounsell-Roberts was a founder of a successful scale-up; has helped organisations across many sectors achieve success; is a founder of KR5 Consulting; and has a passion for helping ambitious business owners scale-up and exit.
Seeing through the business fog
This is the final part of a three-part series of “Seeing through the business fog”. This blog explores the ‘go to person’ and how to avoid being over a barrel or putting staff under undue pressure. Earlier in part-one, “Business Direction – Framework for SME Success” we looked at the importance of building a framework around your business direction. Part-two “Metrics in business – staying in control” covered the feedback loop to make sure you’re on the right path.
You have enough on your plate
As a business owner you have enough on your plate. Yet in the frantic busyness of the day job, it’s easy to sleepwalk into a business fog. That same ‘go to person’ that makes life so much easier today, can create a new set of problems tomorrow. It’s not good for the business, and it’s not good for them. So how can you avoid the pitfalls and make sure you’ve a clear pathway forward? What might the worst-case scenarios look like? See “Owner Overwhelmed with Work”.
Signed-off with stress
Your ‘go to person’ is stressed and signed off work – see “Stress at work”. There are strict instructions not to contact them for health reasons. Other staff look helpless as you scramble to save projects or safeguard vital revenue. You believe you can figure it out in time, only there’s no time. Pressure builds, staff are looking wobbly. You spend hours in meetings trying to figure out solutions. Then there are the dilemmas, do you tell customers, turn down work or cut back?
Over a barrel
There’s another scenario, one that’s even more divisive. A ‘go to person’ that keeps things close to their chest. They know the secret things that make everything work well. They want job security, so they make themselves indispensable. That’s not the only thing. Knowledge is power, and they have power over you. They have you over a barrel. Most likely, it will be very subtle, yet you’ll find aspects dictated by them instead of you. A slow death by a thousand cuts. The hero turned villain.
The third and final scenario, deceptively sounds like a good problem to have. You’ve so much business, your ‘go to person’ is busier than ever. You quickly realize that the ‘go to person’ is the bottleneck. They’re swamped, and you need a clone. Only a clone doesn’t exist. There doesn’t seem to be anything to delegate that doesn’t slow things down. Worse, the work is slowly suffocating the ‘go to person’. They are working long hours, they don’t look well, it’s only a matter of time before they crack.
Our first business fog is for the owner. Owners generally know they have a responsibility to get everything done. There’s marketing, sales, product development, delivery and customer care. Then there’s all the support parts such as finance, staff, and tech. If that wasn’t enough, they also need to set the direction, stay legal and keep everything running the way it’s supposed to. That’s too much for anyone to keep in their head. What happens? Other people get involved. That’s fine, except owners can become heavily reliant on key people, and occasionally lose sight and control of what’s happening in their business.
So, what’s the owner fog. It’s when an owner doesn’t know what’s going on, because it’s in the heads of other people. When owner’s lose sight of the mechanics and controls in the business, they are unclear how it operates. It might sound harsh, but in this situation the owner has abdicated instead of delegated work. They have no effective way of governing the business. The owner is walking through a business fog. See “Working on your business, avoiding the “Owner Trap”?”
‘Go to person’ fog
The second fog is for the person that is carrying a big part of the business in their head, and this might be the owner too. They are under pressure to perform. There’s no one else. They can’t take time out and work is bleeding into their personal life. The job has got a tight grip on them. They’re trapped. They’ve so much swirling around their head, they feel like they’re walking through fog. See “How to Assess Key Person Risk?”
Avoiding business fog is both possible and desirable. Owners can stay in control, gain visibility and know what’s going on. And workers, including owners, don’t need to feel overwhelmed, overworked or trapped. If you’d like help to avoid the business fog, why not take the first step and arrange to have an informal chat with me in complete confidence.
KR5 Consulting is a business technology consultancy with a passion to help ambitious business owners. We provide a unique approach to business technology to help you scale-up and exit. Our approach delivers high-level views for the board, along with incremental and practical implementation. Our work starts by understanding the business direction and needs so we can work together to create a plan. We create a map of the current and future systems to create a clear overview and monitor progress. Our purpose is to help you accelerate, increase profits, scale-up, acquire customers and beat the competition. We do the heavy lifting so that senior leaders can focus their time on building a successful business.
If you’d like to explore the ideas in this article further or need help and advice, please contact Rogan at firstname.lastname@example.org – to arrange an informal chat.
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