Are you one of those people that everyone relies on?

You probably are. Most of our clients are “one of those people”. It’s how they ended up running their business in the first place. Something happened; an opportunity, an event that required them to step up.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” as the saying goes. Or woman of course. Over a third of new businesses are started by women and that’s rising all the time.

Over the past three weeks I’ve been focussing on the Ten Vital Ingredients for a successful recovering business. So far, we’ve covered:

This week I’m going to focus on the most common reason given by owners as being their biggest challenge: reducing over-dependence on specific individuals.

Noticeably this is also the one over which you have the least control or can claim that you have no control at all meaning you’re off the hook. After all, no-one can stretch time, can they? And we can all claim that we can’t find the right people.

And given that we have an easy excuse for not doing something about it, we can more easily convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do to reduce our over-dependence on one individual (which is often ourselves).

The result is that you can be left asking yourself “Are you a prisoner of your business”. If you’ve discussed this with one of our team you may well have been asked whether you are a “Ronald” or an “Elton”. Check out the article if not.

To briefly summarise, a “Ronald” is someone who sits several layers behind the frontline dealing with strategy and an Elton is the star performer who does whatever it is that the business does.

The reality is that we are all somewhere on the scale between those extremes. And we might not be in the right place. If your business is over-dependent on you or a senior member of your team, what are you doing about it?

There are two ways of tackling this.

One is outlined in the book, “How to get rich”, by the late publisher Felix Dennis. Before his death, Felix made it into the top 10 richest people in the UK and spent his latter years on a Caribbean island doing what he loved most, writing poetry. Not a bad outcome if that’s your thing.

His main tip was to employ people that are smarter than you. Buy talent.

The right people are out there. You might have to pay some hefty old fees to recruitment agencies to find them and a big salary but the person who can reduce your business’s reliance on you is available. Somewhere. If you can afford them.

The only problem is that you roll the dice when you take that approach.

If you are Felix Dennis in his heyday or someone similar, you accept this. Some of the people you take on might not work out, costing you a load of money and maybe even reputation. But get it right more often than you get it wrong, the good outweighs the bad.

But if its only one person you need, it’s a much bigger gamble. Take on someone in a senior role who is the wrong person and huge damage could be done. You could lose profit, customers, even good members of staff. Your living might be at stake. It might take a lot a lot of work to get things back to where they were. You might spend a year muttering under your breath “never again” and “if you want something doing right, do it yourself”.

And that’s a shame. Because you can’t do everything.

So, you have to move along that line and be a bit less Elton and a bit more Ronald.

Write some systems. Organise training sessions (probably on Zoom if your team are spread all over the place currently). Encourage team members to expand their skill sets. Encourage someone in your team to build their knowledge so that on that area they become smarter than you.

Significantly, recruit at the bottom of your organisation. Take on an apprentice if you’re busy and encourage everyone to delegate work down until the next most senior person in the organisation is asking you for work.

Of course, your next most senior person might actually be the person you are over-dependant on.

And that’s even more dangerous because if they leave or even set up in competition with you, your business could be in real trouble.

Often these situations creep up on you. One client built up his business from scratch with a trusty lieutenant (let’s call her Katherine) who was definitely the “Organizer” to his “Claustrophobe” if you read last week’s article.

As the business grew, Katherine was responsible for recruitment and the staff numbers increased. The only problem was that Katherine had by now built her own empire.

In some ways the job was too important to her. And one of the consequences was that she did not want to employ anyone smarter than her. And if anyone demonstrated management potential and ability to make decisions independent of Katherine, that’s when the office politics started.

An associate who did some work there said that he’d never met anyone who was as good at getting a high volume of work out of such a low quality of employee. Hard work was not the problem. Quality was. No-one could make a decision without fear of upsetting Katherine.

It became an incredibly toxic atmosphere. Good members of staff left. Poor ones stayed. Crisis followed crisis.

The member of the team who was most important to its early growth became the person holding it back.

But these things can be fixed. Sometimes you’re too close to the problem….

That’s where we come in. That’s where you need a strategic planning session. These can vary from a whole day where we’ll go through all the key aspects of your business to a couple of hours doing an overview. We can run it just with you or we can bring your senior management in as well.

We’ll produce an action plan from that session setting out what is going done, by whom and by when.

You can drive that plan yourself or you can use us as a professional nagger to push everyone to get their bits done. And we’ll help your team where they’re struggling if you want us to.

Next week I’ll be tackling the importance of communicating goals.

Have a good weekend.

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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