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Is being too self-reliant harming your business?

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Establishing and growing a successful company requires significant dedication and willpower. But what if I told you that you could not only earn back some well-deserved free time, but also safeguard your companies’ future by not being too self-reliant.

According to our latest study, “For Love Or Money“, UK SME owners are missing out on their hard earned rewards and jeopardising the security of their businesses by being too self-reliant. Some two fifths of UK company owners believe their business could not survive for more than a week without them, while more than one in ten said it could only manage for less than three days.

As well as taking a toll on leaders’ health, wellbeing and personal relationships, being too self-reliant puts your firm’s financial future at risk in the event of your absence. Given that the study also shows how a large proportion of business owners are reinvesting their personal wealth back into their company, this is not a risk worth taking.

So how can SME owners become less self-reliant and improve both their businesses’ prospects and their own financial security? Here three tips.

(1) Implement an effective hiring strategy

While some SME leaders struggle to ever lose the startup mindset that drove their business through the initial stages of its lifecycle, a bigger reason for today’s “work hard, play never” situation is work appearing on their desk that should have been dealt with by others. How often have you thought, “it’ll be easier to just do this myself”?

While being too self-reliant is a natural consequence of caring a great deal and wanting to protect both staff and hard earned rewards, it can lead to a dangerous situation. When small tasks and decisions continue to mount up, SME owners are left with little time to work on their businesses. Certain day-to-day operations may always need your attention, but if you have an efficient team in place they shouldn’t prevent you from focusing on long-term strategy. And in order to feel confident that your business is in safe hands, you need to tackle the problem at its root by getting the right team in place and trusting them to get on with their jobs. While it’s tempting to hire those with similar personality traits and skills, this can lead to imbalances and knowledge gaps. I

(2) Build accountability

Once the right team is in place, the key is clearly conveying your employees’ responsibilities, otherwise lines of accountability can blur and you may find yourself dragged back into running daily operations. From the offset, ensure all individuals understand which areas of the business they are responsible for and that this is clearly reflected in their job descriptions. This is especially key for people being promoted into more senior roles.

As your business grows, some team members may feel more detached from the top. It’s imperative to clearly communicate your vision with all individuals so they can see how their role contributes to the future growth and success of the company. This will help to further share the responsibility for achieving success, allowing you to lead feeling confident that you have an engaged and motivated team supporting you.

(3) Tackle the “loneliness of command”

Inability to let go is also linked to the loneliness of command that affects many SME owners. Some business leaders feel that when the going gets tough, they have no one to turn to for guidance. But rather than trying to take control of everything, when faced with a challenge, take a step back and seek help from both internal and external networks. Make it a habit to regularly share advice with others who face similar situations to your own, and can offer their tips from first hand experience.

It may be lonely at the top, but building a strong network can minimise the extent to which the rest of your team relies on you.

Although it can be difficult for SME owners to let go, with the support of a talented team, taking a step back could actually step up your growth.

Michael Davidson is regional managing partner London at top 15 UK accounting firm Haines Watts

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