Bakers Journal

Features Business and Operations
How to Let Go


March 4, 2011
By Michelle Brisebois

Topics

Are you managing the business or is it managing you? In his groundbreaking book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber points out that small businesses are composed of three main characters: the technician (doer and builder), the manager (one who organizes and plans), and the entrepreneur (dreamer or visionary).

Are you managing the business or is it managing you? In his groundbreaking book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber points out that small businesses are composed of three main characters: the technician (doer and builder), the manager (one who organizes and plans), and the entrepreneur (dreamer or visionary).

The author also goes on to point out that small businesses have different life phases. These stages are: infancy (the technician’s phase, when you are chief cook and bottle washer); adolescence (the stage when you start to hire some help); beyond the comfort zone; and, maturity and the entrepreneurial perspective. Gerber uses the term “the E-Myth” because he contends that while the entrepreneur may start the business, it’s often the technician who shows up to run it. If technicians don’t mature to the entrepreneurial phase, they often burn out from trying to do everything themselves. Most businesses that fail do so not from having a bad business idea but from failing to mature organizationally to allow the entrepreneur to lead. Ironically, when a business fails to develop an infrastructure that allows the entrepreneur to flourish, there’s only one person to blame . . . the technician living inside of the entrepreneur who won’t let go of the details.

Savvy leaders understand that empowering people means supporting them even when mistakes occur. Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM, was one of those leaders who truly understood the importance of delegating with style and grace. He was once quoted as saying: “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?” Now that’s an enlightened leader! Of course, IBM has an infrastructure that can afford the time and money to implement a formal training program. Independent bakeries have to contend with less of both and factor a part-time and often youthful and inexperienced workforce into the mix. Just how should one go about delegating in a way that truly ensures the details of running the business are taken care of easily and consistently?

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The term turnkey business has come to represent “a product or service which can be implemented or utilized with no additional work required by the owner/buyer (just by ‘turning the key’)”, as defined by www.investorwords.com). To create a turnkey business, one must first create systems. If you want the product to turn out the way you make it, then you must document precisely how to do it so that a variety of team members can take over in your absence. List those customer touchpoints that truly impact your business. You’ll likely include such topics as point of contact to take the order, product quality, service quality and packaging. Pick one area to focus on and then watch carefully how that system is currently operating. Draw a quick flow chart outlining the system. Be sure to capture each step in the process, being mindful to document it in as much detail as possible. Jot down the materials and labour costs associated with each step so that you have a baseline for measuring the impact of your improvements. Look at that process with an eagle eye and see if some steps can be bundled together, rearranged or eliminated altogether to make it more efficient. Redraft the process with your changes and then implement the new process as a trial, comparing the new costs and workflow to the original baseline. Here’s where input from your team will truly help make the process a success. They’ll be the ones to live with the results, so having them weigh in as you develop it will ease any change management issues. Implement the new process formally, making it clear that this is now the standard operating procedure. Next comes the most important step . . . you must now let go.

You’ve streamlined the process and quantified it – in essence, you’ve made it turnkey. The point here is to make it easy to follow so you can let go of it feeling confident that a variety of team members can produce positive results consistently. Resist the urge to get down in the weeds but focus instead on where you’d like the business to go next. You may feel a bit out of your comfort zone at first, but embrace the change, for soon you’ll be thrilled to be making strategic decisions instead of burning yourself out over the details. The best part is that your team will love the extra challenge too. As Blaine Lee, founding vice-president of Covey Leadership Center, once said: “The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.”


Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical, financial services and wine industries. She specializes in retail brand strategies.