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Essential Transition #1 – Business Building to Strategic Growth

As a business leader in a growing company, you will eventually find yourself at a junction where the activities you perform daily become inadequate for creating real strategic growth. This guide explores the critical transition of working in your business to working on your business, and offers insights into navigating this shift effectively.

The Initial Hustle: Bearing many responsibilities

In the early days and growing phases of any company, you are the engine of the business. As a leader, you find yourself as the strategist, head executioner, and everything in between. Sales, Marketing, Product or Service development, Bookkeeping, Banking – you name it – you are involved in it all. This happens for simple but important reasons: You are developing the business according to your vision, and are good at the implementation of a lot of things now. You may lack the staff and funds for specialized roles to take over this implementation as well. You are also the one who is absolutely committed to transforming your vision into reality.

Grey illustration of a person sitting at a desk working and mechanical gears

As you start to make traction, you may have the luxury of adding on occasional staff.  This, of course, adds additional burdens that you may not have considered, such as the need for HR, training and onboarding, software, processes, and more. As often is the case, when you add new staff, you also add additional work for yourself to ensure these fresh faces are successful. More people, more work, more responsibilities, more working within your business to put out fires and to problem solve.

Now you find yourself spending most or all of your time working on day-to-day elements of the business. Your business is growing, but maybe not at the rate you had intended. You and your staff find that you have many responsibilities and the skills that you’ve refined – being detail-oriented, hands-on, and deeply involved in every aspect –  become the focus of your role. You may find yourself in a spot where your business is starting to lose focus despite experiencing growth. Or maybe, if you are honest, you admit that sometimes the growth of the business and strategic direction aren’t considered often enough.

It’s time to break out of this cycle, but how?

The Strategic Growth Challenge: Transition to Working on the Business

Growth necessitates a fundamental shift in your role. It involves moving on from being the one implementing your own ideas to being the person who sets direction, but assigns work to staff to take lead. Your focus should shift back from daily tasks to broader strategy development, from micro-management to macro-leadership. This is where you start working on the business.

But why is it so hard to actually make this shift from day to day?

  1. It’s natural to gravitate towards what you’ve done for so long.
  2. You get caught up in the cycle of “putting out fires”, without taking time to strategically plan for growth and map out how you would use your time differently.
  3. Delegating tasks that you’ve handled from the start requires trust in your team, which isn’t always easy to give (especially if you feel you are the best at delivering these results).

A business that isn’t dependent on a single individual for its day-to-day operations is typically more resilient and able to withstand challenges, and with a higher-level perspective, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions that affect the overall direction and health of the business.

In our experience, there are some commonalities between businesses that experience growth in the way I’ve described, but then experience plateauing revenues:

  • Staff roles have too many responsibilities. To grow, people need to shift to specialized positions to allow work to flow efficiently and effectively.
  • People don’t know their roles, and internal processes haven’t changed to allow for hand-offs of duties to the next person at critical junctions. This also applies to the work of the business owner.
  • The original vision has been lost or has become outdated. The company may have lost it’s focus and is now taking on work or pursuing projects that don’t fit with the business’ core values.
  • Tasks aren’t being delegated for others to learn from and to make them their own.

Delegating operational tasks empowers your team members to take on more responsibility, which can lead to improved employee satisfaction and retention, as well as the development of future leaders within your organization. As you delegate, you’ll also be able to create more of that elusive work-life balance you’ve heard everyone talk about.
Making this shift is one of the most important things you’ll do as a business leader. Transitioning effectively and at the right time are the keys to successful growth.

The Path Forward: Strategy and Delegation

Making this shift requires intentional planning and delegation. Recognize that stepping back from day-to-day tasks doesn’t mean losing control; it means empowering others and focusing your energy on growth strategies.

Icon of a business person in a suit standing inside a shining lightbulb, depicting the transition to strategic growth as a leader

You need to hire and delegate. Identify tasks or sections of your business that can be handled by others. Hiring competent individuals and delegating responsibilities frees you up to focus on the bigger picture. Consider what other value you could produce if you handed off half of what you’re doing now.

You also need to dedicate time to work on the business. I highly recommend setting a business planning week at least once a year where you, and senior members of your team – if you have them – exit the office and meet somewhere without distraction to evaluate the business perspective and to plan (think S.W.O.T.) and prioritize the direction for the next 12 months.

Don’t forget to look at your own role and think about parts of your job that you have been handling that can be transitioned to another person. Determine a budget, prioritize your projects and put this into a formal plan (don’t skip this step!). Assign responsibility of its execution to key people while you enable them as they execute.

Finally, embrace your role as a visionary. Sometimes business leaders lose site of this and forget to lead into new and uncharted waters. As a leader, your greatest value now lies in providing vision for the future of your business, setting goals, and charting the course to reach them. Lead, encourage and ensure people are able to execute well. You’ve got this!

Remember, the skills that got you here won’t be the ones that take you to the next level. Your business is not just a vessel you build; it’s an odyssey you lead. Embrace this important transition in priorities and sail towards the horizon of your business’s greatest potential.

In Growth,


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