Is your business owner-dependent?

By Dave Driscoll

What would happen if you decided to travel for the next month?

  1. Your business would run like the proverbial well-oiled machine.
  2. You would be inundated with emails, texts, and calls from your employees.
  3. Your employees would call the police, convinced you must have been kidnapped because you are NEVER away from the office for long.

Obviously, A is the right answer, but is it the realistic answer for your business?

As a small business owner, you likely wear many hats and are responsible for the majority of decisions at your company. While that seems normal, it’s not healthy for the business – or for you.

But why is an owner-dependent business a problem?

  1. Fatigue (emotional and physical) is a real issue for owners who carry all the weight on their shoulders.
  2. Focus on daily operations distracts you from assessing the big picture and setting strategies.
  3. You are missing your employees’ constructive, creative solutions and ideas to grow the business.
  4. Owner-dependent businesses are not worth much when it’s eventually time to sell your business.

If your business depends on you to operate smoothly on a daily basis, now is the time for change!

Fresh energy helps businesses thrive. Take a vacation and recharge! The adrenaline rush of a new business can give owners super-human stamina and boundless enthusiasm. But that is not sustainable and owners who don’t take care of themselves burn out. Enjoy the perks of ownership by taking extended vacations as well as several shorter breaks each year to reconnect with yourself, your family and friends. Instruct your employees not to contact you unless there is an actual emergency. Also create time for your passions, hobbies, and volunteering regularly. Time away from your business will give you a clearer perspective and make you a better leader when you return.

Be careful not to let working IN your business become more important than working ON your business. As the owner, you should focus on analyzing your financial reporting, efficiencies, and sales to look for opportunities and challenges. Developing and refining strategies to reach the company’s long-term goals is very difficult if you’re putting out fires or dealing with menial tasks or squabbles.

Empower and train your employees to accept more responsibility. A strong leadership team is invaluable for overseeing that established procedures are followed, troubleshooting daily operational issues, and ensuring superior customer service. Invest in your capable, loyal employees by providing mentorship, training, and genuine opportunities to make decisions. Others may do things differently than you…and that can be a good thing! If mistakes are made, teach rather than criticize. Employees at all levels will surprise you with their practical suggestions for improving efficiency, processes, and company culture. Realistically assessing and addressing your employees’ strengths and weaknesses will maximize their contributions to the business.

Maximizing the value of your business is very important to support you and your family when you eventually retire, sell, or otherwise leave your business. If your company can perform well without you, the business value is much higher than an owner-dependent business. In contrast, owners who are personally responsible for the company’s operations and success really have nothing to sell. Buyers need confidence that the business’ success will continue after you walk out the door.

Ironically, prioritizing time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate now will significantly build business value, ensuring that you can continue enjoying your life beyond business™ long-term.


Dave Driscoll is president of Metro Business Advisors, a business brokerage, valuation and exit planning firm helping owners of companies with revenue up to $20 million sell their most valuable asset. Reach Dave at [email protected] or (314) 303-5600.

As seen in Dave Driscoll's column in St. Louis Small Business Monthly
As seen in Dave Driscoll’s column in St. Louis Small Business Monthly

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