I have been reflecting on the words of one of the most respected South African marketing gurus, Ed Hatton.
He said: “One of the hardest things to do as a business grows is to discard products, people and processes that have built your business to where it is today, but will be a hindrance to you as you grow.”
He notes that for instance it is not easy for business owners to deal with employees and suppliers who will not be able to keep up their growth, especially those who stood by them when they desperately needed them.
Well, those who have read the works of Nigerian colonial era writer, Chinua Achebe, know of several men who brought themselves to destruction by resisting inevitable change at the onset of colonialism and western civilization. Their logical argument was how could they discard the traditions that have held their society together and made them who they are since time immemorial? The fear was, of course, to lose their identity, and in essence themselves.
Those who were quick to learn grasped the futility of resisting change by emotionally sticking to a disintegrating lifestyle. They had the courage to create room for change. They traded old ways at a cost but eventually it opened doors for better lives for themselves and their posterity.
In business, what brought you where you are may not take you to the next level. Your own lifestyle, habits, education, mindset and people around you have contributed to your success at your current state. However, if you want to change, you may need to leave them.
It is normal to feel indebted or emotionally attached to them but for your survival and that of your business, you must change and do things differently. You must change and do things professionally.
Most firms will not grow further unless the owners delegate key tasks they have been diligently doing to others regardless of the fear that they may not accomplish them to their expectations. They must be fully compliant as far as accounting and taxation is concerned. This means keeping proper records and meeting all legal requirements.
Some things can be changed but others can only be discarded. For example, if you have been running your business as one man’s show, you can form a management team with your senior employee and give them enough room to critique and counsel you. If you have been doing most of the things alone, you can learn the art of delegation and so on.
You must train and encourage a culture of self development in your firm so that you can grow together with your employees and avoid wondering what to do with them when the business outgrows them.
For those who cannot match the new task, you just have to flush them out, change their roles or give them different positions altogether. Do not feel obliged or indebted to stick with them on the account of the past. However, if you have to part ways, do it with dignity and appreciation.
This article was first published in The Business Daily on December 11, 2018.