How to Transition from Entrepreneur to Manager

The reality of entrepreneurship is that once you’ve founded your company, someone is going to have to manage it. 

You could hire a CEO, but that sort of executive talent costs money and is often beyond the reach of a struggling startup. This is especially true if your candidate is used to working for an established business with streamlined processes, not your raggedy – sorry, scrappy – new business. 

So that leaves you and your partners to not only maintain and execute your strategic vision but hire and oversee staff, at least for the immediate future. 

But how do you do that in a practical, demonstrable way? It’s accepted business wisdom that entrepreneurs don’t make good managers. After all, if the thrill is in the hustle of starting a company, why stay for the hassle of running it? It’s hard, for instance, to imagine billionaire Richard Branson, whose Virgin Group contains some 400 companies, sitting down with an intern to check over their work. He has, after all, Virgin Galactic customers waiting to be sent into space

For those visionaries determined to accept the demands of management in order to see their company grow, a change in mindset is required. You have to be able to toggle between from “founder mode” and “manager mode.” This is easier written than done, of course, but there are ways, especially in the first 12 months.

These include:

1. Hiring the right team: Maybe you had the original vision for your company alone, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to execute it on your own. If you’re diligent in your hiring process, though, you should be able to find employees you can trust to execute that vision – trust being the key word. 

2. Resisting the urge to micromanage: Especially in your first year, you don’t want to lose clients. That means making sure they get the products or services they’re paying you for and which you’ve promised to deliver. 

To do that you may be tempted to stand over your employees’ shoulders to make sure they’re doing the job the way you want it done. Or, more likely, the way you would do it yourself. Resist that urge. Due diligence is necessary, especially if you they don’t have a CEO as their main point of contact, but you need to trust your people in order to foster their trust in you and your business.

3. Putting observable metrics in place: That said, you need to know that the people you’ve hired are doing their job. Call it ‘trust but verify’. Of course, you always want to improve your employees’ performance to lower costs and improve customer satisfaction. So, get those metrics in place as early as possible and actually monitor them, whatever your system may be. 

And while it may seem impossible, find time to have those one-on-one employee review meetings, especially with new hires.

4. Learning to be a manager: Not that you’ll have much time to do this, but, by all means, keep working on that business degree if you don’t have one already. Constantly read blogs about management, take seminars, and, most importantly, learn by doing. 

Of course, you can read as much as you like about what it takes to manage a team. But until you actually start working with your employees – who are, remember, almost as new to your business as you – you’ll have no idea how to motivate them and build loyalty.

5. Being patient: You’re concerned with building your client base and growing your business. Your employees are focused on the task in front of them. Remember that their day-to-day concerns are going to be different from yours, and so they should be. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to maintain the vision and passion you had when you started the company. But as a manager you need to realize that it’s your employees who are going to execute that vision. You might see the forest, but they see the trees, and both are important to your success.

Not all entrepreneurs are cut out for management. Maybe you’re too ‘big picture’ to be able handle the minutiae of the business you created. Perhaps the biggest favour your can do your company – and your employees – is to step down and hire a manager. At least someday. But until that time comes, remember: you had the vision; now it’s time to concentrate on the mission. 

Sean Plummer | Contributing Writer

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