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How to Hand Over the Reins

Contributed by Dayton Uttinger. 

Being owner, founder, and manager is about as manageable as a hurricane. With some careful planning, steel will, and a bit of luck you can make it through, but it is definitely a trying period in every entrepreneur’s life.  They dream of the day that they can pass off some of the responsibility and afford to hire a manager, but later most find that day stressful in its own right.

After all that time proceeding on three fronts, it can be difficult to hand the reigns over.  For most of your business’s life, you’ve been intimately involved with every decision.  You likely even filled in for your entry-level employees.  So wrenching yourself away from the day-to-day tasks can be very disorienting, especially when you’re expected to trust someone else to handle it all.  To help you with this transition, here are a couple tips to manage having a new manager.

Define the Scope

Assuming that you’ve already hired someone who has what it takes to be a manager, the first thing you need to do is detail exactly what is and what is not their responsibility.  New managers have a lot on their plate, they don’t need to waste time wondering what the extent of their job is.  This will prevent a lot of awkward dancing between the two of you- Is it your job to sign off on inventory or theirs?  What about meeting with the landlord, employee conflicts, creating the schedule?  Everything needs to be assigned to you or them definitively.  This isn’t to say that you can’t help them out if they need it, but this way nothing will slip through the cracks.

Train Them!

This seems like such an obvious step, but statistics say differently.  Fifty-eight percent of managers are completely untrained for their position. Managers play a crucial role in the smooth running of your business, and to expect them to hit the ground running can result in some fatal mistakes.

Everyone learns in different ways, so ask your new manager what will work the best for them.  Would they rather shadow you, or do they do better with a written checklist?  Maybe both? Don’t skip this step just because your new manager has been with the company a while and “basically” knows what you do.  This is not enough.  No matter how long they’ve been there, they haven’t been doing your job.  They can’t know what they don’t know, so it’s best to cover everything.   In-depth training will take up a large portion of your time, but your business will be ultimately better off because of it.

Give Them Just Enough Space

Your first instinct when you see your new manager struggling is to rush in and do it all yourself.  Try and repress that urge.  Much like a child, they need to learn how to handle situations on their own. If you’re always fixing everything, then they won’t be learning and you’ll still be managing!

To avoid that, you have to recognize when your new manager is struggling versus when they really need help.  These should be fairly obvious, but if you’re ever in doubt, just ask them.  They are probably one or two crucial questions from understanding, so try and be patient.

Communicate Constantly

Even after you are assured that your new manager is ready for the job, don’t turn your back forever.  You’ll need to talk to them regularly to establish the state of your business.  They’ll have a grounds-eye view that you’ll no longer have.  In order to continue growing as a business, you’ll have to coordinate effectively.

Additionally, this communication reinforces your new manager’s role.  It gives them an added responsibility, reporting to you, that cements their promotion, and it’s never been easier to keep your new manager in the loop.  With cell phones, digital signatures for important business documents, and plentiful of collaboration software, your new team (even if it’s just two of you) should always remain well-connected.

Ultimately, it is the end of an era when you hire a new manager.  Although it is difficult to give up complete control over your business, revel in your new degree of freedom, whether you spend it in leisure or opening up another branch of your store.  A lot of entrepreneurs never make it this far.  Their businesses crash and burn long before they have to worry about expanding.  Reward yourself for your success, and hand over the reins.

Dayton socializes for a living and writes for fun.  Her rarely relevant degree gives her experience in political science, writing, Spanish, rugby, theater, coding, and spreading herself too thin.  She will forever be a prisoner of her family’s business, doomed to inherit responsibility despite frequent existential protests.   

Photo Credit: Provided by Author with permission to use. 


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