How Do Entrepreneurs Achieve Freedom? Three Steps to Raising a Mature Company
By Gary Mottershead, President GCP Products Inc.
We often hear entrepreneurs refer to their business as their baby. I think a more accurate depiction is that businesses are like our children. They may start out as infants, but it is the leader’s responsibility to see their business successfully move from one stage to the next, all the way to full maturity (as we do with our children).
I define full maturity as the point where your business can operate day to day without your presence, while still maintaining the persona and values you instilled in it. However, achieving this goal does not mean your responsibilities are at an end. On the contrary, you yourself must progress to the next stage.
Now that my business has reached full maturity, my time is spent planning and contemplating its future. I didn’t get to this point overnight. It took many years of hard work and three specific stages of growth to do so. Let me share with you those stages and how I guided my company through them.
Stage One – Infancy: The Early Years
Much like an infant needs his or her parents to survive, so does your business. As the owner of a startup company, you do it all. Everything is entirely dependent on you. The business has no defined functions. The day your business reaches its first milestone (takes its first steps) you celebrate, but you do not let go. You are still there, firmly holding on.
In this stage, you must pay particular attention to the values you are instilling in your employees. The standards which will form the basis of how team members will represent your company and treat your customers. As time passes, little by little, you can begin to let go of small responsibilities. Passing them to capable employees, while supporting and encouraging those employees to take the next steps on their own.
Stage Two – Moving Toward Autonomy
At this point, your employees are beginning to work more independently. They may even be surviving on their own, but they are not quite in a phase where they can thrive on their own. You need to continue to watch closely and reinforce your values to avoid bad habits from developing.
By this stage, your principles are in a solid place, and manifest themselves in how your employees carry out their work. Still keeping a close eye on the culture, your employees are growing. This is good, you need your employees to be strong, vibrant, independent, and creative to move on to the next stage.
Stage Three – Maturity
This last step can be challenging for the owner. It is the stage where you take the training wheels off and let go. Defined by increased or full autonomy for your employees, this is the best form of confidence a leader can provide. When you are no longer the only person initiating growth, you have reached this milestone. Your employees are representing your business in their own way, not your way. Yes, employees have their way of doing things, but they are doing them in a manner that is consistent with the values you have set.
If you have instilled a strong core value system, then those values will transcend from one generation to the next. Your customers will recognize a part of you in each employee they interact with. It is at this point when you have gained your freedom as the business leader. After all, isn’t freedom what all entrepreneurs are looking to achieve?
As I said earlier, just because my company can operate without me does not mean I no longer have an important role. I spend much of my time working with my leadership team and team members to ensure the company’s future. As I learned long ago, people can run a lot faster on a path that is cut and free of obstructions. I am the person who helps cut the path so others can run fast to a brighter future.
Three Steps to Raising a Mature Company
- Recognize your business will grow up and that is ultimately what you want.
- Come to terms with the fact you are not going to be in control of everything.
- Celebrate the fact that your own growth and freedom can happen at the same time.
*Gary Mottershead, is an entrepreneur at heart, and founder/owner of GCP Industrial Products Inc., one of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies on the Profit 500 list. With his background in manufacturing and chemical engineering, Gary believes it’s important for specialists to consider themselves entrepreneurs first. “I got into this world by being a technician,” he says, “but you can’t stay a technician for very long. You really have to be able to think about and direct where the business is going.”
Gary has also been a coach for the Strategic Coach® program since 1996. During that time, he has conducted over 350 workshops for more than 2500 entrepreneurs from North America, Asia, and Europe. With over 20 years of coaching experience and 30+ years in business, Gary is always looking to find new ways for his customers and coaching clients to grow.
Having been through the ups and downs of business himself, Gary has the confidence to know he can handle it, and wants to give that confidence to other entrepreneurs. “They’re so important in today’s world,” he says, “and they don’t always see that. That’s my role, to say to them, ‘You know what? Your clients need you!’”