To maximise the value of your business, you need to let it grow up and leave you.
If you’ve ever been a parent or you’ve spent time with a toddler, you’ll understand the feelings that we are about to describe.
A tug at the hand
With a tug at your hand and an audible groan, Little Human just wants to keep going – no matter the terrain or the obvious perils ahead that have given you many new grey hairs as the Big Human in the room.
The more you try and hold the two-year-old back, the stronger the fight for independence becomes.
Eventually, with a twisting manoeuvre that defies belief, those small fingers break free and the toddler bolts.
There’s no plan or direction, other than to get away and make the mistakes that are critical for development. And boy, are there plenty of mistakes along the way.
Yet despite our fears of the absolute worst possible outcome, the reality is that we are almost always dealing with just a scratch or a few tears. Correctly so, the “black swan event” of something tragic (but very low probability) happening to Little Human means that we take as few risks with them as possible.
Little Human instinctively knows that independence is key to survival. As any tired parent will tell you, there is little or no logic in this process. There is just a burning desire to grow up and move on.
But what about the family dog?
A scratch of the ear
Well, Reggie the Labrador doesn’t understand this foolish desire to escape. What could be better than being with your humans, getting an ear scratched and returning the favour with an occasional lick?
Throw in the prospect of some leftover chicken and you have a scenario worthy of religious texts! The cats have no idea what they are missing by not constantly seeking attention. At every opportunity, Reggie guilts you into giving him more love.
“Oh, you’re going on holiday? Let me throw those big, sad eyes in your direction. Zoom call? That’s preposterous! It’s been at least 10 minutes since you patted me.”
Of course, you love Reggie. This cannot be disputed. It’s equally true that without the dog’s constant attention-seeking offensive, ol’ Reggie would probably get far fewer ear scratches.
But here’s the problem: your business that you spend so much time building is Reggie.
Your business won’t fight to be independent
When you’re away from home and trying to take a break, your business is encapsulated by Reggie’s sad eyes out the window when you drove away. Your phone never seems to leave you alone and the people you hired just aren’t able to perform the way you want them to.
What you don’t realise is that you are equally guilty in this relationship. By treating your business like Reggie, you aren’t giving it a chance to learn from its mistakes and ultimately stand on its own feet.
The result? Sad eyes instead of scratches. A life of dependency instead of being able to switch your phone off.
At an extreme, a business that cannot be sold.
The cat? Yes, the cat.
Little Human is a daft creature. If there is zero supervision, it ends in tears and possibly worse. Little Human definitely can’t be allowed to truly run free before developing a sense of fear and the same is true for your business.
Likewise, unless you want to be a slave to your income for the rest of your life, you can’t build Reggie Inc. and hope to achieve a proper exit.
This brings us neatly to Duchess the Cat.
Duchess knows where her bread is buttered. When she needs something, there are people ready to serve. Most of the day though, she actually just gets on with it. Often finding the most efficient way to do something rather than the hardest way, Duchess enjoys an occasional trip in the garden but also knows that the Rottweiler next door isn’t terribly friendly. There’s a safety line that shouldn’t be crossed.
When the Big Humans go away for a day, Duchess doesn’t care. As long as there’s some food and water available, Duchess might start getting irritated after two or three days of being along. Also, she might not.
Build Duchess Inc.
Duchess is the happy medium. She knows how to avoid death, unlike the toddler. She knows how to entertain herself and be comfortable in her own skin, unlike Reggie. Best of all, she knows exactly what the Big Humans are there for and when to reach out for help or a bit of attention.
If Duchess was a business, she would be highly valuable. There would be a professional management team in place that can stand on its own feet, only occasionally reaching out for strategic guidance. There would be proper risk management in place that avoids the Rottweiler whilst not losing out on exciting birding opportunities.
It’s hard. In fact, it’s the hardest thing for any founder. You have to be prepared to delegate and see things happen that you know you could do better. As you allow the people in your business to run ahead and get a few scratches, you’ll soon find out that the next attempt will be a lot more successful.
Eventually, those scratches become a triumphant shout and an immeasurable joy.
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