I once founded and ran a Print Startup that was created because of the fulfilment I get from seeing and touching a well-printed material literally created out of imagination and how these materials save the day in many cases for clients across geographical zones.
What started as a freelance gig, quickly grew into a proper startup with several clients, partners and employees. At first, I loved the thrill, the referrals, the shout-outs on social media and general commendations on jobs well-done from clients, but all that gradually translated into a nightmare as the number of orders and deliverables increased significantly. Trusting my employees with these responsibilities didn’t really work out (Or so I thought) because they couldn’t produce the kind of quality that I was reputed for (and I wasn’t willing to put in the time to teach them). This meant that I had to step in (to micromanage) all the time on almost all orders.
My workload increased significantly and I began to drop the ball on my own responsibilities as team lead, plus the overall production quality output started to take a hit (typo errors, not doing the last line of quality check on pre-press on behalf of clients e.t.c.). My passion became my trap and the business suffered greatly as I could no longer see the big picture, and as a result, we could not grow.
“When something stifles growth, that thing is a trap. You need to be liberated”
In my opinion, here are some tips that will prevent your venture/passion from being your trap:
- Learn to share your passion/vision for the business with your subordinates. All I had to do was to help them see the business from my perspective. I should have taken time frequently to show them all the tricks and tips. Ensure that you show them how and allow them to ask why, so they can produce that same or better level of reliable quality of work.
- Do not be afraid to share your knowledge: We sometimes feel insecure because we do not want the subordinate to learn all the secrets of the trade and then become a competitor. The truth is, people will leave your company no matter what you do or didn’t do! All you have to do is to put a structure in place that will ensure you swiftly recruit, train and onboard new employees to replace the ones leaving. Also, if your company consistently deliver quality work and handles the relationship with clients well, most of your clients will have no reason to go with an ex-employee of yours. As we say in Nigeria, “Soldier goes, a soldier comes, the barrack remains the same”.
- Invest in all necessary tools of work: For example, if it’s a business that requires machinery, try as much as possible to raise funding to purchase such. Get the most basic at first, if you cannot afford the expensive ones. By doing so, the business operations responsibilities can shift away from you (you can recruit operators and set clear daily KPIs for them) gradually.
- Hire at least one Manager: A manager can be an experienced and highly educated person or a fresh graduate with zero experience. It depends on what you can afford, how quick you want results and your ability to attract the right talent for the business. An inexperienced manager will be cheaper but you will have to teach them what to do, while an experienced manager might not want to work with you due to the size of your company and it’s lack of pedigree. Managers hold other employees, including the founder/CEO, accountable. especially if you are the type of chief executive that employees find quite easy to manipulate emotionally because they have direct and unhindered access to you in the hierarchy of things. Also, its easier to deal with and command respect from clients when they know they’ll have to talk to a manager first. It helps with objectivity in business.
- Finally, If your passion does not put other people to work, either paid or voluntary, then it is a trap. You may get actively involved in every aspect at the beginning of the business so as to know the workings of the business and to save cost, but in the long run, it will be costly for the business to keep running that way. It can cost your health and reputation. This is why I’ll advise that you first take up a job, build your network and savings, and then use those to fund your passion. You should plan for salaries of the first few employees for at least 6 months ahead. Doing this will free you up to think, plan, network, chase deals, conduct more market surveys, get better-paying clients and most importantly, grow the business.
Do reach out for suggestions, additions, redactions e.t.c via email@example.com. This is Day 2 of my writing challenge.