High standards come naturally to you. You can see an error or an opportunity a mile away. No one else knows the business like you do.
If you are like many solo entrepreneurs, you are passionate… focused… and an expert in your chosen field. You have put countless hours into your business, and are probably at a point where you need to bring in staff members in order to meet demand and grow your business.
But you may be struggling with the idea that more employees actually means more work for YOU, and you probably already feel as stretched as one human can be. The idea that you could actually take a day–or heaven forbid a week–off to regroup and spend some quality time on yourself and your family seems impossible. So how do you let go and let your business grow to a point where it can run without you?
First, you have to believe in your people.
Creating a team of passionate, hard-working, and intelligent people is the key to scaling your business, and being able to step away with confidence. To do this, surround yourself with confident, proactive people who share your vision AND bring something unique to the group.
Once you’ve hired them, let their voices join your own to strengthen the vision and the day-to-day operations. Solo entrepreneurs are often nervous about bringing in team members and letting them make decisions for themselves, because they’ve put countless hours of thought, time, and energy into creating their business. Letting go of control and allowing others to make critical decisions is actually the key to empowering your staff to hold down the fort while you are away.
In order to hire the right people for your business you first need to define your culture, values & vision for the company. Look for these values and traits in your employees and candidates. Set the expectation for your culture during your interview process, and continue it through training and annual reviews. Make sure everyone knows the company’s vision, values & goals and how these relate to their daily job functions. If your culture is strong, this knowledge will empower your team to make decisions, even if you aren’t there to guide them.
Second, you have to create rock solid systems & processes.
Every successful business has a set of systems and processes that help it to run smoothly and efficiently. In the photography industry, your processes aren’t just in how you edit your images, they encompass all of your customer interactions, from the first inquiry to the day you hand them their finished products. Break down each step in your customer lifecycle and see where you can create a system to allow that step to run more smoothly.
Don’t skip this crucial exercise because you think systems and processes will ruin your creative spark! Having a set process will actually free you up to more creativity! When the foundation of the business is solid, you have less daily stress, and more time to devote to your client interactions, session magic, and editing. In fact, when you put parameters around steps like shooting and editing, it actually strengthens your technique and pushes you to think creatively with confidence!
Don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out at once. Tackle one piece of your workflow at a time and see how you can take it to the next level by creating a cohesive process and standards. Then test it and work out the kinks. Ask for feedback from your team and clients to see how the process is working and to get valuable information on how to make it better! Once your systems and processes are updated and running smoothly, you will be amazed at the time it frees up for you. When you take a bit of that extra time for yourself and step away from your business, you will also be amazed at how well things run without you. Your phone won’t be ringing off the hook with random questions and glitches.
Third, let go and trust what you have created!!!
Many of us struggle with letting go of the reigns. It starts out of necessity. As a solo-preneur you are the person who keeps the business moving forward. But once the team and the system are in place and working well, many of us still find it hard to let go and let others be empowered to get the job done. This can be incredibly demoralizing and frustrating for your staff, and can hurt you in the long run.
Self-confident people who want to make decisions for themselves will be tempted to leave your organization and only those who enjoy being micromanaged will stay. This is certainly not conducive to growing your business AND having a work life balance. SO… Trust yourself, trust the systems & processes you have built, and trust the people you have chosen to get the job done. If they aren’t doing it “your way” but it’s not “wrong” …meaning that it won’t create major havoc on your operations, your customers or other team members… walk away. For example, if invoices are being run incorrectly, resulting in skewed sales tax reporting, you have to say something. Can’t mess with the tax man! But if the way your team member organizes their emails isn’t the way you would organize your emails, let it go!! As long as customers are being replied to, of course.
Let’s face it, if it’s your way or the highway, everyone in your organization will be petrified of making a wrong decision. They’ll need to check with you at every step in order to get their tasks done and keep from getting in trouble. Everywhere you go there will be a long line of people waiting to check in with you. You’ll be working all hours just trying to keep up with their questions! The sad truth is that you will never drive anything forward in your business, because all you’ll be doing is dis-empowering your team, and creating mountains of meaningless work for yourself.
So how do you graduate from being a control freak to an “empowerer”? Develop a team mission and let people know how it impacts their role. Give them goals to work towards and tools to get the job done. Believe in your people and your systems. If you don’t have a system for something that needs to go a particular way, create one. And give people regular, honest, constructive feedback on how they are doing. Find out what areas they need help with. Remove roadblocks for them. Let them do their job with dignity, and give them the opportunity to learn new skills as they grow with your business.
Growing your business, and creating a team of people who share your passion and vision is incredibly exciting and rewarding! You started this business because you had great ideas, inspiration, and a vision for how things could be if you got to run the show. The ultimate success is being able to step away and knowing that what you created is strong and independent. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still an integral part of the business. It means that you can now work on how to make the business even better. So don’t be afraid to grow and let go!
Little Nest Portraits is proud of the systems and processes it has created, and is growing it’s team through franchising… empowering others to live their dreams and own their own businesses.