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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Why entrepreneurs need to get their hands dirty

Founders often find themselves less involved in the day-to-day business as their companies grow

Staying on top of all aspects of the business could improve quality and save the company money. Getty Images
Staying on top of all aspects of the business could improve quality and save the company money. Getty Images

When your business takes off and your team exponentially grows, you might feel tempted to delegate more tasks to focus on your long-term strategy. Soon enough, you may find that you are not as hands-on as you were with the day-to-day tasks of your business, as you were in the past.

This is what happened with our consultancy last year. We were working with multiple clients across different industries and the business was at its peak. That meant a lot of travelling, and I had to delegate more tasks to my team, which ultimately meant I wasn’t as hands-on as I was across different services that our firm offers. I was running around, busy managing the strategy, and my team saw less of me at the office.

However, as you focus on the future growth of your business, be careful not to let go of the hands-on approach you had in the past, and to visit the team from time to time.

I had a recent reminder of how important it is to be more involved and to actually lead the team and get involved. I'd delegated the entire project of developing one of our sister company’s website to a team member, who brought in a quotation of how much the project would cost. I was shocked at the figures. The hosting cost of the website was phenomenal, and the development cost out of this world.

I could’ve approved that quotation if I had not looked at it carefully as we had adequate finances. But the entire episode was my cue to get involved and show my team members how I handle such a situation.

To cut the story short, we ended up saving more than 90 per cent of the cost, and my team engaged in a creative exercise of finding alternative solutions, and not necessarily agree with the situation presented to them. We learned for instance, that for our future needs we could deal with an online service provider who was available 24 hours to address any website-related issues. Not only would that mean accessibility around the clock, but it also saved us money, which we have allocated to other projects.

I then went on and visited other aspects of the business, and attended different day-to-day meetings, and met the clients my staff was handling. The entire exercise led to remarkable effects. It was not only a learning experience for me, but also helped my team engage with me, and it showed them how I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty.

I was inspired to lead by example as advised by my mentor. As the chief executive of a leading public organisation, he would personally check the products, marketing brochures, and make sure there was a quality check to ensure nothing went unnoticed. When a new website goes up, he would take time off to ensure that there were no spelling errors, and that the website reflected the organisation in the right way.

Yes, it made his team extra careful. But the important message was that the CEO took it upon himself, to ensure the organisation was presented in the right way from every single angle. His mentality, and the way he led by example, was reflected across the organisation and department managers were inspired to lead in the same manner.

If you want to go down the entrepreneurship route, you’ve got to be willing to get your hands dirty. Being involved from time-to-time, will provide you with insight on how your business is really doing, how your customers are reacting to your products, to check if your team is delivering on the brand’s promise. Not only will it provide you with insight, but it could save you money, such as in my case.

It will also inspire you to perhaps launch new products or change the way your business is operating.

As your business grows, there will be a lot on your plate, and you can’t be everywhere at the same time, which means you will have to delegate a lot. But you need to keep in mind, that there are many times when your presence is crucial, and you will need to get involved. Clean hands won’t serve you in the long run. Be ready to get some dirt under your nails.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications firm in Abu Dhabi

Updated: January 26, 2019 04:51 PM

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