Most remodelers are control freaks. As a recovering remodeler, I hope I can say that without getting into trouble. When money gets tight, these remodelers tend to intensify their grip. Their employees feel that squeeze, and it doesn't feel good.
In defense of remodeler control freaks, I understand. This might be the only way you know. You may have never worked for anyone else, or only for others like you. If your company is very small, you might really need to have your hands on every part of the business to keep it moving and clients happy. There is huge comfort in knowing everything that's going on.
But if you run a larger company, or a growing one, your inability to cede some control and delegate some responsibilities will hold back or even strangle your company.
SELF-DISCOVERY I discovered control-freak traits in myself early in my business career. What also became completely clear was this: If I didn't learn to surrender some of that control to others, my business wouldn't grow and neither would my employees.
Looking back, the hardest part about letting go was simply doing it. I was proud of all that my business had accomplished, and I feared that things would spiral out of control the minute they left my hands. But the actual letting go felt good, and the positive results came quickly.
This became apparent when I was driving around town with a local realtor friend. We passed one of my company's project sites. The job sign was out front and a crew was busily working away. The realtor asked me what kind of project it was. I had to be honest with him: I told him I had no idea! In fact, I didn't know who the client was and didn't even recognize the subcontractor crew that was doing the work.
That's when it hit me: It really is working.
Other benefits of sharing the reins included higher employee morale. Employees grew to think like owners; they gained ownership and pride in their projects. Customer relations, service, and overall satisfaction improved. Problems started solving themselves without my input. Employees who didn't buy into the plan typically left by their own choice.
Some benefits didn't become apparent for several years. Looking back, a big personal benefit to me as the owner was that I began to experience less stress on the job as well as at home. I was also able not only to take vacations but to enjoy them knowing that the business was under control in my absence.
BUY-IN Here are my suggestions for changing your business so that you're no longer a control freak — but you still have every reason to be confident that things are operating as they should.
Together with your employees (or at least your key employees), make a bulleted list of the steps your company needs to take in order to share the control and management of its day-to-day activities. Having their input will make the plan theirs as well, making the changes an easier “sell” to them. Decide who will be the best person to take over each responsibility, and why. Make sure everyone has the training they need to take on their new roles.
As the owner, what you choose to do or not to do as part of that plan will speak volumes to your employees in terms of their future as well as the future of the business.
Be realistic, of course; major change is evolutionary. Allow time to properly plan and implement your changes. Use time as an advantage. By moving forward at a comfortable pace, you and your staff will have the luxury of being able to analyze mistakes constructively, identify how to correct and prevent them, and revise your plan on the go.
You won't be in control, but the company will be.
—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build remodeling business. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, Shawn frequently speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies. firstname.lastname@example.org.