Now that we’ve created a teenager of a business…
A little over 13 years ago….Groff NetWorks was born. Now it’s a teenager.
So reflecting on the age of the company, I ask myself: Have we attained operation maturity? Or did we just begin maturing?
Related, my wife and I entered a new phase of parenting recently. We celebrated 13 years of parenting – or more appropriately, Grace, our oldest daughter, turned 13. We have a teenager in the house. We do not know the challenges that we will face, but we know that this phase is necessary and that this too will pass.
The same goes for the business. Reflecting on now 13 years of business (yes, my daughter was weeks old when the business was officially formed – they entered their teens together), I wonder how much the business is starting to take on a life of its own.
Now I know we could’ve STUNTED the growth, by, well NOT growing, then thinking about the similarities between a life of a child and the life of a business would be moot. But we did grow. And as I got thinking about these shared ages, I saw a few common themes.
#1 Teenagers are learning INDEPENDENCE from the parent. I don’t know how many business owners get here by the 13th birthday of their company, and I am sure rare few are able to achieve by the 13th month, but Groff NetWorks now has some independence from me the owner. With the leadership we have put in place and developed, we have empowered, from the operations level all the way on down, independent thinking.
I am the owner, the decision-maker, the one who started this and I work for no one. I can make all executive decisions in the shower and they better like it.
And if I want them to like this business, and have a healthy and high-performing culture, I better give up that attitude and posture.
The business can start to take on a life of its own – independent of me. In fact, in our most recent quarterly planning, we intentionally decided to get me out of the driver’s seat – get me out of meddling – and let my operations director make operations decisions. And let me focus on growth and vision – my roles.
It’s scary sometimes. What will happen to my baby on this road called life? But like any teenager, if given the right values and tools, the success in life can be more assured. And in business, as I enable my leadership team to be empowered to make decisions, BASED on true, living and active values, with a clear defined mission and purpose (the best leadership team can also help create and edit the values).
#2 Teenagers have a tendency to TALK BACK. While this isn’t one of the admirable traits of teen-hood, I see a strong parallel, but a good one in the maturation of a business.
And yet, I HATE some aspects of accountability (I mean, I am in business for myself, right?), but I know it’s good for me. We have a strong leadership team and they have started putting me more freely on the hot seat. I know at some point during quarterly planning I am going to squirm. “How are you holding up your end of the bargain, Mr. Owner?” It goes right for those vestiges of ill-formed belief that I am inadequate. So I’ve been tempted to rather shrink back and either just let things happen or do things when I am good and ready to do them (now who’s sounding like the teenager?)
#3 Teenagers have a lot of BIOLOGICAL and EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT to accomplish. There are going to be other influences on the business. Once it’s grown beyond the four or five individuals working directly for me it takes on another dynamic. I think back to the times when I could reach over and influence my whole team and all employees had direct influence on the direction and intimate close relationships – with everyone employed. I could have friendships with them and know everything about everyone. But now it’s up to the team, the leaders, the ones I have entrusted with my baby, to influence this business to maturity. As I take care of my direct reports, and they take care of theirs, I now have degrees of separation in this entity. And it grows. Obviously sheer manpower needs to expand to match the needs of the clients. But the growth of headcount can’t match the direct growth of clients/users serviced; that is childish thinking. Mature thinking is developing processes that empower this coming-of-age entity to be stronger and more powerful in its effect and influence.
#4 Relational maturity. Now they get to start having relationships with others that are apart from us. The clients can be cared for, with even escalation paths, that don’t involve the owner. Oh, I (as the owner) still need to have a pulse on it and can check in on it and make sure they are home by midnight, but there is an element of trust that when you have the right values guiding how you select, promote and reward the talent that is the best fit, they will make you proud.
You develop your leaders and help them develop others.
This child needs to grow up. You can’t stunt the physical growth of a child. They will, by the force of nature, become adults. Physically. We won’t talk about stunted emotional maturity and the effects of our less-than-perfect parenting may have on our children.
However, assuming there is growth in the business, you can have the same problem. You can stunt the qualitative growth of the business. It takes courage, but taking the right steps of stepping back without letting go is key to getting there. If you don’t have values that are alive, hire someone to help you with that. If you don’t have the right people and you don’t know why, see the previous point. If your team isn’t empowered, get some coaching in order to help yourself. Time to let go. Let the immature business grow up. Give it roots and wings to fly beyond your own capabilities.