It’s a decision every owner of a growing business has to make: Just how big do you want your business to be?
“It’s really a matter of what are you trying to do with your company,” says Joseph Renton, founder, chairman and CEO of Innovative Media Solutions, an entertainment and communications solutions provider for the travel industry. “If you want to grow your business and the whole process flow comes through one person, that being the founder, it just doesn’t scale. You recognize growth can’t come through one person every day.”
When Renton was finally able to step back and involve other people in the leadership of his company, his business took off. And doing so freed him to better map out the future of the company and develop a strategy for continued growth. As a result, IMS jumped from 2006 revenue of $18 million to 2007 revenue of $23 million with 97 employees and contractors.
Smart Business spoke with Renton about how to get other people involved in leading your business so you can focus on the big picture.
Q. How do you assess your own workload?
You really have to look at what it is you are trying to accomplish. You may be perfectly satisfied with being a small, maybe 10-person firm. You still have a role in technology, and you can still run the company and participate in day-to-day fulfillment. That may be great, and you may be more than fulfilled.
If you want to try to enhance or expand your offerings, then you find someone else to come in and run the corporate side and you continue to be a technologist. If you see everything coming through you, then you know that’s not going to scale.
Q. How do you get others involved?
We sit down as an organization. We sat down in 2007 and defined what we wanted 2008 to be. Part of that definition was markets, revenue and profitability. When you’re moving forward, you always have that outline or guideline to help you with your decisions. You’ve already decided where you’re going to play and what you’re going to do, and you try to work within that framework.
We have a very competent and strong executive management team. As a group, we make sure that collectively we’re aligned and then we each have the responsibility to disseminate that vision and consistency through the organization. As the CEO, clearly I’m required to describe, define and continually articulate it to everybody in the company.
The people who work on the executive team have the same goal. It’s really the collection of the message being consistent from every leader and making sure everybody understands the ambition and the goals for the year.
The repeated conversations just reinforce that message. It’s not just the CEO.
Q. What role can lower-level employees play?
There is a lot to be said for taking the time to mine your own human resources in support of many different initiatives.
We have referral bonus programs for people to participate in to help us identify and hire individuals. A lot of times, it’s as simple as sitting down and talking to team members. You’ll start talking about things that will drive us down a path, and all of a sudden, you’ll see an opportunity or you’ll see something you never would have known if you hadn’t taken the time to chat.
Q. How can you get the most out of your people?
As a business owner, you have to understand that everyone that works for you has a life. They have a significant other, a spouse and kids. They have things that they have to do. You have to ensure you find a way to create a work environment and expectation that doesn’t constantly put them in conflict with living their life.
You’re trying to go as fast as you can go, and you’re trying to create, and you load people up, and you can overburden folks.
Show your employees some respect and understanding by not trying to kill them. Try to help everyone understand that what they are doing has the ultimate impact on your financial performance.
Talk to them about performance. Talk to them about your ambition for the year. Let people work. Let them go ahead and work at what you’ve asked them to do.
Put them in a position to be successful. Stay out of their way until they determine they need some support. That gives them a feeling of some autonomy and that you respect and appreciate what they are doing. If you manage them constantly, they don’t feel that.
Q. What is the danger of micromanaging?
It makes them feel as though one, you don’t trust them, and two, you don’t think they are competent. Be close enough to know if you need to influence and help. But the reality is, you have to give them a chance to be successful.
When you’re dead, who is coming to your funeral? Very few people you meet in your business life are coming.
HOW TO REACH: Innovative Media Solutions, (714) 854-8600 or www.imsinflight.com