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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Relentlessly Make Yourself Obsolete

Written By: Charlie Gilkey | Comments Off on Relentlessly Make Yourself Obsolete

We’ve all seen it before: a business founder that excelled in the earlier stages of her business starts to flounder in later stages because she can’t let go of the everyday goings-on of the business. No one can do it as well as she can, she’ll tell you.

And when she’s talking about those things that lay within her personal genius zone, she’s right – no one else can do it as well as she can. No one else knows the business’s past, present, and future like she does. No one else has done that specific action hundreds of times.

That’s precisely why she no longer needs to do it. If her business is built on her, specifically, doing the same thing over and over, the business is destined to be constrained indefinitely. It’s worse than being capped out at what she can do – it’s capped out at a fraction of her capacity. 

Let’s break that down: the second you hire a teammate, including independent contractors and virtual assistants, you increase the amount of time you’ll need to communicate and coordinate with them. That amount of time is added to whatever you’re already doing, and I’ve yet to meet the owner-executive of a growing small business that isn’t already maxed out.

So, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, hiring someone immediately decreases the amount of hands-on work you can do. Even if that person is doing stuff that you weren’t doing, you still have to train, communicate, coordinate, and assess what they’re doing. This is why I said a business would cap out at a fraction of the owner-executive’s capacity.

Many people look at this situation and determine that it’s not worth the time and effort to hire someone else. What’s the point? 

The point is that every business has a growth point that’s constricted by human capital. Products and services require people to make or deliver them. An excess of available product or service capacity requires people to market and sell them. An excess of people within a business requires people to make decisions about effective allocations or possible downsizing. A mass volume of sales requires people for customer service and follow-up.

As much as we can leverage technology in our business to be more efficient, people grow businesses. And the only way you can bring more people into your business is to relentlessly make yourself obsolete – the better you train, orient, and integrate the right people into your business, the less you’re needed day in and day out. This includes bringing in people who can make the decisions and plans that you once did.

And the less you’re needed to be in the trenches of the business, the better you’ll be able to look at your business at the executive level and drive your business into the future, rather than solving yesterday’s problems today. At the very least, you could stop working 14 hours a day with no end in sight. (Get real about this one, folks.)

The more your business can effectively run without you, the better business you’ve built. Understanding this requires a perspective shift around your ego – it’s better to be proud about building an organization that is self-sufficient than one in which the people need you for everything.

So, I’ll leave you with a challenge: Find one thing you’re doing in your business and figure out how you can let someone else do it. Do it today. And do it again tomorrow and the day after that until you reach those few things that only you can truly do.

The future and growth of your business depend on it.

We’d love to hear from you. Are you doing everything in your business or have you brought in people to help you? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Article written by
Charlie Gilkey is the go-to guy for creative changemakers and entrepreneurs for figuring out how to get the right things done. His blog, Productive Flourishing, is one of the top productivity and entrepreneurship blogs on the web and his work is routinely cited, showcased, and shared in places like, BNET, Project Domino, Lifehacker, Copyblogger, Problogger, Zenhabits, and others. Charlie’s forthcoming book, Beyond Bootstrapping, helps entrepreneurs and small business owners become better executives and build better businesses from the business they’ve already built.