Self-Imposed Speed Limits
When I left the military and moved across the country, I rented a Uhaul truck to move all my stuff. The super-frustrating thing about this truck was that it had a governor installed.
An accelerator governor prevents the vehicle from going faster than a pre-determined speed. The national speed limit was 65 miles per hour, but the governor was locked at 60 mph (96.5 kph).
Many business owners install governors in their business. Not just one, but many.
My friend, Dan Andrews, recently published a post that is a good example of installing a governor — something that will limit the speed at which a company grows if followed.
Dan shares how he and his business partner, Ian, were having issues getting their team to hit key performance indicators (KPIs) that they set for the team. The article then goes into how you, the entrepreneur, can improve your personal productivity habits to become a better worker to improve performance in your company.
The problem wasn’t with their metrics, their team, nor their personal productivity. The issue they, as with most founders who begin leading teams is who in the company is creating and assigning KPIs.
The process for habit forming outlined in the article is great for personal goals, the self-employed, and employees, but is a company-limiting process for a business owner.
Focusing on personal productivity will act as a governor because it requires founders to labor in the company for their team instead of guiding their team to labor for the company.
Strength Can Be Limiting
Most governors that founders install come from their strengths. They are good at doing something, so they create processes to allow themselves to do more.
They will even hire employees so that they, themselves, can work more, not to have the employees replace them.
Productivity is for the employee. Effectiveness is for the executive.
Each time founders create a process for the company that requires them (even as a decision-maker), it limits the speed at which a company can grow.
Like I said above, founders install lots of acceleration governors in their businesses.
They do this thinking that they are actually going to speed up the company. By setting up processes that allow the founders to increase their personal productivity, the company stays limited to the output of the founders. To the founders, this seems like the right thing to do. The process seems to make sense.
Except, ultimately, it ties the founders to their business and ties the businesses’ growth to the founders.
Leaders Control The Accelerator
Dan and Ian, as co-founders of a couple businesses, have been relatively successful. And their advice is well-meaning and would be good advice for other business owners who wish to limit their company growth, too.
This isn’t to disrespect Dan or Ian. I love those guys and they have built enviable businesses for digital nomads.
It’s attractive to be an executive of a million dollar manufacturing company where you only work 20 minutes a day (I can’t remember the actual time Ian said he spent managing the manufacturing company before they sold it.).
But there wasn’t a leadership team. There weren’t any executives working 40+ hours a week to grow the business. The company was limited by their personal productivity and personal ambition, not by employees not hitting key performance indicators.
My assumption of readers of my blog is that everyone here wants a multi-million dollar business that is a sustainable, lifelong and/or sellable asset.
That requires you to have a leadership team that can grow the company without you.
That means you can’t be the acceleration governor. You have to remove yourself as the limiting factor
If you’re only leading your company a few hours a week and you’re happy with the income as a part-time, self-employed founder, that’s great — install those processes that limit growth because they are fulfilling your desires.
But if you want people to run the company for you, don’t install processes that require you.
Permanent Employment Vs Temp Job
The confusing part for founders is what process requires them instead of them temporarily needing to do the labor.
When our companies are small, we, the founders have to do heaps of labor.
We become so close to the work that we can’t see the line between where we end and the job begins. This makes it really hard to define roles and responsibilities to hire employees for.
So basic and frequent small business advice is to tell you to make a standard operating procedure (SOP) for a task and then hire someone to do that task.
The idea is to free you up from one task simply to do more labor on another task. This sets you up to be a permanent employee instead of a temporary worker in your own company.
My advice to founders who want to grow, and grow fast, is to hire people who are better than them to fulfill roles and manage their own responsibilities. Those new hires will assign their own tasks.
This moves the founder from being a “team leader” for a task to the manager of the new hire.
The nuance here is crucial. If you’re hiring for tasks instead of company roles, then you’re forcing yourself into a permanent job of overseeing individual tasks much like a team leader has to do. Instead you want your hires to be able to define their own tasks while you manage the direction in which those tasks get focused.
By becoming a manager, you will speed up the output of your employees. Even then, you must see your job as manager as temporary employment for you. I recommend that when you hire people into your company, you also evaluate them on their future capacity — do they have the ability to lead others?
However, what many founders do is they create a process where they are intimately involved with the results of the new hire. The new hire can never be free of micromanagement because the founders build themselves into the process.
Over time, founders stay in processes they know they shouldn’t be in because it makes them feel important and useful. Also, change is scary. They cling to old ways of doing something, not because they are best, but because they work — for the most part.
To prevent this, founders need to have an idea as to how they will replace themselves as the interim manager for that hire. At some point they should have a trigger for either promoting that employee to manager or hiring a manager.
Founders have to see the roles they are currently fulfilling as interim positions as they continually move up towards being an executive of their own company. They must not install themselves as the sole person capable of keeping the company running.
How Many Governors Have You Installed?
Go through your business and find where you’ve installed yourself or processes that limit your team’s ability to grow the company for you.
Start with the easy ones — the ones where you are assigning tasks or where employees can’t just do their job, but have to ask if it is okay to move forward.
Remove those governors first and your company will accelerate.