What’s the one question every business owner should ask to decrease owner dependency and increase value?

May 13, 2013Post by Laura Humphreys

question markWhen I interviewed 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Sam Hazledene, I asked him about his strategy for growth.  This is the guy who built the largest medical recruitment company in Australasia from scratch in a few short years.  He told me that he’d grown organically, starting out with just himself and his wife travelling the country trying to convince hospitals to use their recruitment service.  With a great point of difference and a lot of passion they rallied customers remarkably quickly.

The business expanded and Sam needed to grow his team.  He hired from the bottom up – firstly filling the more logistical roles until he could afford more specialised senior people.  This was exactly the same approach I had to growth with my first business.  When you are funding growth out of cash flow this can an effective way to do it.

At first, Sam told me, he was reluctant to let go of things, not believing anyone could do a job as well as he could (sound familiar?).  But he began to ask himself a question, which enabled him to get his ego out of the way.   It’s a question I now share with my mentoring clients and once asked, you just can’t forget it.

The question is this:

“What can I and only I do?”

Start asking yourself this question on a regular basis. Make a list of everything that you do.  Then go through the list and highlight the things that only you can possibly do.  Check the list and then sleep on it.  In the morning go through the list again and make sure you are being honest.  There will be things still on that list that others could do if you let go, trained them well and trusted them.  So ask yourself again:

“What can I and only I do?”

Be willing to let go of all the things you could hire others to do as well as, if not better than you.  These should include pretty much all administration, book keeping, project management, HR, legal and other operational roles.  And as quickly as you can afford it, replace yourself with people who have the skills and experience for all of the other roles within your organisation too.

Ultimately you want to get yourself to the point where the answer to the question is vision, strategy, business development and culture – in other words being the leader of a great team.

This is what Sam did to grow his business.  It’s what I have done with my businesses.  And it is the key to creating true value in your business.  A potential buyer will find your business far more attractive if you are leading a team rather than doing all the work.  So the next time you find yourself in overwhelm and wondering how on earth you can decrease your business’ dependence on you… remember the question and start letting go!

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of the book Liber8 Your Business – pre-order your copy by emailing laura@liber8yourbusiness.com