Get Agile: Letting the Control Freak Go

by / ⠀Startup Advice / May 11, 2013

Get AgileIt is an addiction, after all, isn’t it?

That electric surge which rushes through your veins and leaves you feeling out-of-body elated when a creative idea (which you’ve brewed up) comes off for your business.

Or that tingling on the back of your neck when you suddenly see yourself closing out that key deal which will see you through another 6 months.

Or that massive kick you get when a crucial customer turns round and says to you, “You know, what you do here is really, really good.”

And it’s hard to kick an addiction; almost impossible to go cold turkey; completely unthinkable to forget it forever.

Control of your business. Your weakness and your strength. Your tragic flaw and your fiercest focus.

Addictions have a nasty habit of eating away at you without you realising. You may think you’re putting every last quantum of energy you possess into making your business a success, but the people around you – your staff, your family, your partner, your customers, your dog – they notice when the chinks in your armour appear – even if they remain invisible to you.

Getting your business up and running can be, and often is, a 24/7 project. Even if you haven’t been regarded as a control freak before, soon you start demonstrating all the tell-tale signs; a tendency to micro-manage; an unremitting determination to count every last dime; a burning agitation if you are not first in and last out of the office every day; a final view policy on every commercially-related email; a habit of re-reading contracts at least a hundred times; questioning literally everything.

There is, of course, so much to keep the small business founder awake at night; cashflow, staff morale, cashflow, payroll, cashflow, suppliers, cashflow, employee benefits, cashflow, HR, cas… you get the picture.

Says Dan Hamer, co-founder of UK-based property maintenance and construction company Absolute Construction, “More than anything, I’d say ‘work’ itself kept me awake at night at the start, mainly because it was a 24/7 of working for the first couple of years, so many hours per week – more than I’d ever had to do before. So much so, in fact, that when we took a few days off, I’d find myself almost permanently asleep – even if we were with friends abroad!”

It can be draining, exhausting even. But the tendency of committed entrepreneurs is to always go back to their vision; yet this vision of yours, when doused in a big bucket of worry, can easily translate into aggression if you’re not careful.

For young CEOs, leaders of small businesses and entrepreneurs, the key is think like the great athletes; to stay warm, stay loose, stay flexible. Retain this agility and you will be able to deal with whatever the shifting sands of the market throw your way.

But how to retain that agility? Well, you are going to have to relinquish a little bit of control. Not all at once though. There’s no cold turkey needed here, nor advised, actually. But you can do this in piecemeal.

So here are some pieces of that meal for you to chew over:

Piece 1: Delegate

Yes – the dreaded D word. Thought I should hit you with that one straight off the bat to get going. Step away from the micro-managing and empower your staff. Show a little bit of trust, a faith in their decision-making and you will suddenly feel a refreshing wave of objectivity wash over you, see your business in a whole new light. That weight on your shoulders? That lifts too.

Piece 2: Flex up your tech

You’re probably already using things like Google Apps and Dropbox. Maybe you’re using Basecamp for your project management, maybe you’re also using Highrise for your CRM. The point is, cloud technologies and network offerings that can be remotely managed can allow you a welcome pressure release, allowing you to work collaboratively from anywhere and at times which most suit the balance between your business needs and those of your staff. Also, you may well succeed in trimming your overheads, losing a little of the complexity that comes with a team of programmers, and de-stressing everyone out in the meantime.

Piece 3: Cultivate a flexi-focussed culture

Stress from the outset with every new hire how the value of flexibility and agility underpins your business. Show specific examples of how working flexibly, using agile build processes or flexible technologies has benefited your business. Share things regularly with the staff.

Have a think about how the idea of flexibility can inform other areas of your business which you may have previously thought were rigidly fixed – things like flexibility in paying for new services (PAYG), using open source code, giving your staff flexi-benefits – all of which, when pooled together, cultivate a genuine culture that your business can develop around.

Piece 4: Step back + freshen up

The bitter truth that the more ostrich-style, head-hiding CEOs often fail to accept is that some people out there know more than you. This may well even extend to your staff. Use them as sounding boards; don’t just say you value their input – listen to them too and show you’re using their contributions too. By doing this, inevitably you pull back a little, start to see how others view this thing which you’ve built and you begin looking more objectively at your business.

By remaining agile you keep the addiction you have to your business in check and let the control freak go. But in the spirit of this article, thinking flexibly requires asking others for valuable contributions. So what steps do you take to make sure your business remains flexible and agile?

Matthew Pink is a writer and content producer working in digital publishing covering new media, entrepreneurship and intersections with culture.

Image Credit:

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.