Owners need to show some entrepreneurial trust as they relax control.

June 1, 2020

4 Min Read
Let Go

By Brad Schow


Brad Schow

Many successful businesses operating today were once a dream, manifested by ambitious and tenacious men and women. It was their blood, sweat and tears, their unstinting dedication, their baby. But, sooner or later, the innovator behind it all conceded control and stepped away from the center of that well-oiled machine.

This same reality hits many managed service providers in business today. An entrepreneur starts the company, grows it successfully into a small business and operates upon the entrepreneur’s ability to invest sweat equity. But eventually, the entrepreneur runs out of energy and time to grow the business by him or herself. This shortsightedness leads to backward management structures and failed key performance indicators (KPIs).

To overcome this “entrepreneurial plateau,” innovators must learn to trust others to manage the business. It’s easy to hand over control in part – i.e., to hire people that seem to fit in – but it goes deeper than that.

Are You In or Out?

Most entrepreneurs don’t have classical business training; they typically don’t hold MBAs or have financial/business backgrounds. They are self-starters who are passionate about their work but are typically left with a lot of questions when it comes to operations, strategy and logistics. And they tend to try to fill this gap themselves, but it’s often short-lived. I’ve seen many business owners take a leap forward: bring in the right folks, start measuring against quantifiable metrics, only to have the numbers not line up perfectly, which pulls the entrepreneur right back to white-knuckled control.

This cycle happens when there’s no entrepreneurial trust. Business owners can preach all they want that they’re “in” when it comes to handing over the reins to a new operations lead, but is that authentic? Will that sentiment stand when things don’t pan out exactly how they envisioned six months from now? A year from now? Without complete trust, there will always be a push and pull between the MSP’s founder(s) and its business arm.

Most business owners are self-proclaimed micromanagers. So, of course, a good place to begin building trust is learning how to let go of small, everyday tasks. No more worrying about getting through every ticket on the service board. Letting go of these tasks will free up time for the founder to work toward large-scale goals, such as defining KPIs and developing a long-term strategic plan.

Entrepreneurs should also recognize possible blind spots. Most founders can become extremely focused on a strategic plan or groundbreaking idea. But they have a hard time seeing what that might mean for sales, finance, back office, etc. If they’re left to their own devices, it means management teams won’t be involved in strategy and the entire business operates in silos.

If the entrepreneur can continue to let go little by little every day – for example, by asking a colleague to run a staff meeting or handing over a customer contact on the new sales lead – they carve a path for genuine trust among employees and confidence in the business structure going forward (however that might look).

The MSPs that Grow Well

The next curve in the picture is co-creation in terms of building teams, building strategy and growing the business. Entrepreneurs have to be open to inviting leadership and management in when making virtually any decision. Only when connective tissue is formed between leadership and founder(s) will the business grow well. There must always be an awareness by the entrepreneur that what he/she does affects others within the company.

This doesn’t mean entrepreneurs should take their eyes off the endgame. In fact, the owner will always drive toward an exit. Do they want the MSP to lead several mergers and acquisitions, build to a certain size and then sell? Do they want to make a big impact on the community (local, MSPs, the business community)? By stepping out of a ringmaster role and into a strategic position, the entrepreneur will direct the business they started more effectively because they’re able to see the bigger picture.

What separates a successful MSP from the rest is most often the entrepreneurial journey. To move business forward, companies must stop operating in “muscle and feel mode,” and instead create a system and strategy rooted in trust and dependence.

Brad Schow is vice president of consulting at ConnectWise. He previously was a peer coach and business consultant at HTG. Prior to that he spent 20 years growing a solutions and managed service provider business. Follow him on Twitter @ConnectWise or on LinkedIn.

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