In 2016 having taken the leap to leave behind paid employment and follow this hunch and slightly sick feeling in my tummy that I felt at the idea of autonomy, off I went.
Out into the business world without a clue about paying company tax, the trials and tribulations of managing one’s own team, about the gut-wrenching anxiety of cash flow and payroll. About what it’s really like to be the Founder, Accountant, Sales Exec, Client Relations Manager and Data Entry Clerk all rolled into one. One day I will write my own job spec. Those first 12 months were terrifying, exhilarating but most of all, true. True to who I am, which felt so good.
It was never in my nature to hang around waiting for anything, I am impatient by character and being miserable or left waiting are not states I find endurable, I definitely don’t manage either gracefully. Being unhappily employed was not my style and knowing what the market held, I was not about to put my head down and move on into another dead-end job with uninspiring managers. Time for change, time for a leap. I like leaps, I am good at leaps, I am ever so slightly addicted to the nauseating sensation of the adrenaline kick one gets from leaps. So leap I must, every now and then.
The birth of this entity was fraught with issues that all startups know and can appreciate, but it was and is my baby. A vehicle for which I tested myself in many ways and didn’t always come out with flying colours and more than a bruise or two. But ego aside, (although somewhat battered), I have become ‘we’ and the team and I have weathered storms and I am grateful we are going from strength to strength.
And now as cycles go, I am about to embark on another leap, the adventure of a lifetime, another type of birth altogether. The human kind. At the ripe old age of 42, a geriatric birth it’s called, rather offensively. But how do I leave one baby for another?
To birth the human variety, I must gradually withdraw from the cocoon of work, to relax and nest is what I am told. To withdraw from the business where I still have autonomy and we still have a lot of growing to do. As a founder, how does one let go?
As a first-timer, it is extraordinarily difficult to relinquish the reigns and have faith and trust that all will be ok and your team will take over. And yet, take over they must.
So, here is my recipe for letting go:
- Gradual withdrawal is key. To shift work from your office base to remote working. Start out perhaps one afternoon a week and increase from there. This is enabling all of us on the team to get used to my not being around and learning to work remotely with one another when necessary.
- Don’t panic. Have a plan and don’t let it creep up on you, time flies by. A project management approach helps and enlisting the help of all involved will also make you less jittery and also show your team how much they are valued and trusted.
- Start delegating and handing over early. Begin to induct and train members on different unique tasks that only you do so that you can slowly pass them on and everyone can learn where everything is and how it works. Founders are notorious for storing information in the most ineffective places, like their heads and not the cloud for example.
- Announce and warn clients early so they can quickly become accustomed to dealing with other people on the team.
- Remember it is temporary, eventually, after some months you will be back and you are not dying, you will be reachable, just not in person all day every day. The business will go on and possibly thrive even more with a change of pace and management, be graceful and let it go.
One adventure usually consumes the other and I envisage as I sit here growing plumper by the day, more rotund and clumsier in my new ever-expanding frame, that when she arrives in this world, I will be so smitten I will forget all about my other baby for a while. And afterwards, as time will help us grow accustomed to one another, she and I, I will do what all change-junkies do and attempt to have it all. Both babies, co-existing happily in one life.
I’ll let you know how it goes. I also have to run a marathon soon so watch this space, the next few years are going to be busy and full of leaps.