We often use the terms running your business and leading your business interchangeably, but they’re actually very different.

Typically, an entrepreneur will start out running the business as it grows from a 1-person operation, but if they’re still trying to run it when it’s at 10, or 15 people, they’re doing it wrong, and potentially facing burnout.

When you start a business, you’re doing it all – sales, admin, marketing… you name it. As it starts to grow you take on people, possibly starting initially with a VA (Virtual Assistant) and maybe then taking on a contractor or two for specific part-time roles, until the business can afford full-time staff.

You’re still doing pretty much all functions but have some help for some of the lower-value, time-hungry stuff.

You grow further and take on a couple of full-time people (often from the part-timers you’ve already worked with), so there’s very little change except your salary bill and feelings of responsibility increase.

As you continue to grow, you steadily increase your staffing levels and offload some of those early functions,  perhaps marketing and HR – something you didn’t even have to start with, but had to take on when you hired your first full-time people.

But, of course, though this growth you keep running all the functions yourself, in terms of direction and management. After all, you know the business better than anyone – right? You’re now starting to feel enormous pressure, and there simply don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. The harder you work, the bigger the business gets and the greater your stress levels.

You’re feeling overwhelmed! And the business now starts to suffer. People are unhappy, some will leave, customers are feeling neglected, and so on. Your stress levels just keep rising as you try to juggle all the proverbial balls…

And this is the problem, you’re doing too much, and much of your time is being spent on the wrong things, rather than those where your business really needs your focus.

This is what running your business means!

You have to transition from just running your business to leading it as the business grows.

As you employ more people, this means increasingly giving them responsibility and authority over their areas of the business. A great way to start doing this is by creating an approvals framework within your business – if you start small, it can grow with you and clarity for all where the levels of authority lie for the business. If you’d like a sample, albeit fairly comprehensive, one that you can draw on, just request it here and I’ll be happy to send you one.

Think about how you spend your time, and which tasks that you currently undertake can be better, and more cost-effectively, handled by others, and delegate them. Effective delegation is really one of the arts of a good leader – a critical leadership skill, in fact.

Increasingly start looking further ahead – your business by now is at a point where the month-to-month stuff is being taken care of. What is your vision for the business over the long term? What is your current mission statement about what the business does now (and will lead to your vision in time)? And, very importantly, what are the values of your business, those things central to its culture and success?

Spend some time to develop these and then communicate them to the business so they all know where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. Effective communication by a leader is another critical skill, and yet some 71% of employees don’t believe their leaders spend enough time to clearly define their goals and plans, and 4 out of 5 want to hear more frequently about how their company is doing.

So, ensure these are filtered down through the organisation through such tools as an OKR framework, which is also a key part of the whole culture of accountability and delegation, and hold regular updates on the business for all. And, as a key part of your culture, ensure you have active development plans in place for all staff, and succession plans, too.

Great leaders are also great time managers. They cut out the distracting stuff and focus on the important, over an above the many ‘urgent’ things that can be delegated to others. They ensure that they can add value to any meeting, other than just presence, declining those where they cannot effectively and productively add value. They delegate whatever they can, book time to just think about the business and plan, and ensure they take time out of the office to recharge their batteries (see Temptation #6).

As the well-known leadership author and speaker, John C Maxwell put it, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

And, to really help your leadership, if you don’t have a board with independent (non-executive, external, non-shareholding) directors, or at least an advisory board with these, you should seriously consider it. It will give you a whole new way of looking at your business and fuelling its growth and success!

So, stop exhausting yourself (to use a running analogy) by trying to run your business, and step up to leading it.

It will be better for you, your team and your business’ growth and profitability!


Following a career spanning nearly 50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.

If you’d like to discuss your business goals, book a no-obligation, free 30-minute call with me here. I’d be delighted to talk with you.


#BusinessFitness #Accountability #Attitude #Board #Culture #Delegation #Excellence #Focus #Leadership #Overwhelm #Productivity #Success #Time #WorkLifeBalance #2023


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