As we’re growing our local tech startup Carrot well into the 7 figure per year mark we’re hitting some growing pains and big time learning curves.
In my previous companies I was able to get by without a real team in place. Yes, we had great people who did things for us… but it was always just delegation.
I’d learn the task, map it out into a process, then find someone else to do it going forward. I passed it off but I still mentally “owned” the project.
It seems like there’s a lifecycle us entrepreneurs go through as our companies grow.
For me it started out going solo.
When I launched my first business I was all on the “solo entrepreneur” bandwagon. I had bought the “work from home in your underwear” pitch from those late night infomercials and thought that the best thing possible was to make a great living, with no employees, all by myself.
So I tried that for a bit and it was honestly cool at first… then became downright miserable.
What happened to me was I wanted to grow my company so I added on new things. New products, new marketing initiatives, new customers (which means more customer support), and so on. And if you try to go it solo too long, you stretch yourself too thin, work too much, lose track of why you became an entrepreneur in the first place (the freedom), and your business traps you.
Or at least it did that to me.
So, next I heard all about “delegation” and finding people to offload work to.
Delegation is a great thing. It’s what got me and my first company from extreme overwhelm to a lesser version of that.
But the thing I didn’t realize until just recently with my latest startup Carrot, is delegation can actually kill your company from scaling into a great company.
You’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. I would have asked the same thing 3 years ago. That’s because I was happy just creating an income stream rather than a business.
So with Carrot, the first 18 months, every role of the company besides my own and the CTO were really just delegated roles.
I had something I wanted to be done, I created training systems for those things, and found someone to just do what I asked to be done.
It worked great. At least I thought it did…
Until delegation, that thing that is supposed to take stuff off my lap and out of my mind so we can grow, drove me to the same place of overwhelm I experienced 4+ years before when I was a solo entrepreneur.
And it didn’t make sense to me… so my next thought was that I just needed to find more people to delegate more things to. That was my first gut instinct.
Until I talked to a mentor of mine who broke it down in really simple terms for me.
In his words on his blog, he said delegation is defined by, “I’ll do it myself, then I’ll understand it, then if further investment is warranted, I’ll have the experience to hire and instruct a new person.”
And he said that exact mindset most entrepreneurs adopt early on is the opposite of what will scale your business and give you freedom. Delegation means you still “own” the work but someone else is doing it for you.
Instead, he told me if I wanted to scale the company and really gain more freedom, I had to focus on team building, not delegation.
With team building, “‘Team-building’ means the team is trusted to own it, has obligations around that, can figure out and execute all the details, and is responsible not just for meeting initial expectations, but increasing their expectations of themselves.”
And the key to team building vs. delegation is finding people who are greater at their position than you ever could be. So they can not just take your instructions for a task, but take a vision and goals… then implement based on their prior knowledge to make it come to life without you micromanaging them the whole way.
I’d been doing it all wrong. Follow me as we scale this business further and ditch delegation for true team building a tech startup in small rural Oregon.