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  • Writer's pictureRussell Lookadoo

To Be or Not to Be?

Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet (Act III Scene 1) that the question was “to be or not to be”. The question behind the question when he wrote this immortal line was should the protagonist commit suicide. The burdens of his office, his work, had become so dissatisfying that he simply did not desire to continue. Of course he was facing numerous other trials. However, have you ever felt that there was more to life. So the question is really do you want to live to work, or work to live.

When entrepreneurs take that leap to start a business they are typically following a passion or a great opportunity. I doubt the intent is to work 70 hour weeks. One of the most attractive forms of compensation of being a business owner is the liberty to decide when and where you work. Of course, in the beginning the entire business is dependent on you that there has to be a lot of sacrifice and commitment to be successful. Everything that has to get done in a startup must done by the owner. The business gets to a stage where further expansion is capped by the capacity of the owner, not their capability.

To hire or not to hire becomes the question. The owner decides to add people to take on some of the work. The added staff either performs specialized tasks the owner is not good at, or very routine tasks easy to train. Further growth leads to more and more people and you would think the owners personal time expands as others contribute. The irony is the opposite occurs. Adding more people require more training and oversight. Owners look around and ask why am I paying these people and working longer hours?

To grow or not to grow is now the question. But not growing the business is often the death of the business. The original dream of the entrepreneur is at risk. The entrepreneur must learn to become a leader and successfully get things done through other people, effective delegation. There are three key things that must occur for effective delegation so that the entrepreneur evolves into a leader.

1) The leader will institutionalize the business. Everything that must be done to achieve the company vision should be examined through process engineering. Each step should be documented and the procedure reviewed to make sure that there are no gaps or duplications. A documented process can be controlled. Errors can be attributed to a flaw in the process or that the process was not followed. A process that is in control and communicated can be continuously improved. Entrepreneurs have great difficulty in delegating because they are too close to the business and have high control needs. Documented processes that are under control allow the leader comfort in delegating even the most important parts of the business. This is best accomplished through a process involving those closest to the work balanced by an outside facilitator who can add an independent perspective.

2) The leader will create a system of accountability. Each key task in each process needs to be assigned to someone who has the ability to perform. The process engineering defined what has to happen while the assignment of these tasks defines who is going to do them. The people hired must know what is expected of them and must be clear they are responsible for getting it done. Without assigned accountability the leader is still up at two o’clock in the morning uncertain if things are being taken care of. This can be accomplished by using software that dynamically links process engineering to job documentation and business organization charts.

3) The leader will manage the performance. This is very different from doing the work. When the work is defined through process engineering and clear assigned accountabilities, the leader will shift to furthering the business by removing obstacles the employees encounter. Managing performance must be a regular and focused effort. Expectations must be clearly set and based on the defined processes. Clear and fair measurements must be reported to gauge progress. Feedback must be clear, timely and consistent with the process based expectations and measurements. The art of feedback is not intuitive and the leader often needs to be coached.

In his book The Forty Hour Work Year, Scott Fritz describes how he accomplishes this very effectively.

· One annual two day strategic planning session (16 hours)

· Monthly 90 minute steering meetings (18 hours)

· One midyear take pulse session (6 hours)

As a leader you can execute your business from anywhere in the world at a time of your choosing, but only after you have invested the time and energy to create the three fundamentals described above. Does your dream include a highly successful organization that achieves the business vision and your personal vision of liberty? Do you choose to do what you want, when you want, from where you want? Do you live to work, or are you working to live? That is the question.

Russell Lookadoo is the HR Guy for small businesses. His firm, HRchitecture, specializes in helping business leaders accomplish their goals by effectively using their teams. Russell brings three decades of experience designing Human Resources solutions that achieve business strategies in varied organizations ranging from a small manufacturer to the nation’s second largest bank.

Russell holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources designation from the Society of Human Resources Management and earned the Certified Compensation Professional designation from World at Work. Russell attended the University of North Carolina on the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Industrial Relations. Visit his website at

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