Entrepreneurs have an interesting and fundamental challenge, which is to grow the company beyond themselves. At the outset, the entrepreneur is everything: product developer, salesperson, marketer, consultant, accountant, office cleaner and more. The challenge is when they seek to grow beyond that stage.
The challenge is two-fold: the entrepreneur has to be willing to surrender responsibility and allow that others must now do what has been their responsibility. They must do this recognizing that it may not be done as well, or as efficiently, or in the same way. At the same time, they must also persuade their customers to act and interact with someone else. Both of these are very hard.
This has long been a challenge that I have experienced and wrestled with in endeavouring to grow my own company. It was underscored again for me in a recent article in the Globe & Mail, announcing that chef Gordon Ramsay was no longer associated with a Montreal Bistro, now known as Laurier 1936.
The restaurant is not enormously well known, at least outside of its immediate neighbourhood. It wasn’t the sort of place one would associate with a chef of the reputation of Ramsay. Clearly the owner of the restaurant had ambition and resources, to attract such a relationship. My interest, though, is not in his company – it is in Ramsay’s.
Ramsay pursuing this partnership speaks not to the inherent qualities of the Montreal bistro, for there are many more, better known restaurants in Montreal that he could have approached. What this relationship says is that he does this sort of thing a lot. Clearly one of his services is as ’partner for hire’, lending his expertise, his insight, and – above all – his reputation, to establishments, no doubt in exchange for some hefty compensation.
The challenge of this was highlighted for me in the line, “they have had a team at their disposal.” the problem is that the restaurant didn’t want a team, they wanted Ramsay. And clearly, after the first promotional trip to chew the fat and stuff the chicken, they didn’t get Ramsay. And, annoyed, disillusioned or dispirited, they broke off the relationship.
Whether you are someone of the calibre of a Gordon Ramsay in real life, or just in your mind, this is the challenge that must be overcome. You need to have it stop being about you. Or you need to accept that it is only about you. Depending upon how you make this choice, you will pursue very different strategies, and need very different teams.
While my success in letting go has varied, I have come to recognize that for me, what I most value doing is consulting – not leading, not managing and not empire building. I have gone from leading an organization that had several employees, and at one point an ambition for more, to being in a partnership with one other, who is already my partner in a different context.
I am focussing on what I do best. I am the one in front of my customers, and doing the work that I want to do. And for me, for now, that’s more than enough.