Updated: Oct 1, 2021
By: Sarah Jackson
All over the world entrepreneurs have the same problems. They have a great idea. If they are lucky and work hard, they turn that idea into a successful business. With a combination of hard work, perseverance, and more luck they can grow that business - until they cannot. That is when they first start to experience growing pains. This can manifest itself in a number of ways. As the business grows, the leadership finds it cannot be everywhere at once - quality starts to dip, decisions are not made as quickly as they used to be, and clients just are not as happy as they used to be.
Instead of looking critically at the problems, leaders panic. You will think the solution is to work harder. If only you can be in more places at once, then you can fix the problems. You just need a few more hours in the workday. Then a few more hours becomes a lot more hours. And then you realise: You have not been leading your company, you have been carrying your company. Sound familiar?
We meet and talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and, you tell us:
You are working 16–20-hour days to try and grow your business but you are spending all your time on administration;
You started your business because you have a passion - but you don’t get to spend your time doing that, instead you spend your time down in the weeds;
You are a creative and innovator, but it has been months since you did anything creative;
You founded a successful business, but you don’t get to enjoy the fruits of your labour. You spend all your time at work and hardly see your friends and family.
We have met and spoken to some of the smartest and best entrepreneurs in the country. But despite being savvy business people they so often make the same mistake: They undervalue their own time and the capabilities of their own staff. We have met so many entrepreneurs who:
Founded $10m+ companies...but spend their time approving 1,000 ETB payments;
Assemble talented and capable management teams who are not given the room to bring their skills, insights, and experience to the office;
End up working on things they, frankly, are not good at - like administration and compliance;
Have so much on the plate that they become the bottleneck and the obstacle to growth.
Setting up a business takes a certain type of person. Someone with creative vision, technical skills, and guts. Growing and scaling a business though needs something else. Most of all it needs a team and for teams to work effectively they need clarity on their roles, the structures they work within, and clear and accountable decision-making authority. Ethiopia’s business environment is getting better. A lot better. But it still has its challenges. Some of these challenges are regulatory but some of them - a lot of them - come from the way we run our companies. If you founded your own successful business and you are still working 16 hours + days, hardly seeing your family and your friends, and not enjoying your successes then the question you need to ask yourself is: How can I help my staff to help me?