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Who Is Your Boss?

Last updated August 12, 2018

Even the boss needs a boss

Like most business owners, you’ve probably worked for someone else.

You had a boss, someone who told you what to do and how to do it. You could ask them for help. They would keep you on track with deadlines and make sure that you delivered on time and within your budget. You could go home and forget about work until the next day.

You’re the boss now and you don’t have a boss anymore. The question is do you need one? Let’s see.

I bet you’ve sat in your office and said, “I’ll finish that report by the end of the week” or “I’ll make an appointment with x client” but didn’t do it. On Monday morning, you say the same thing; again, it doesn’t happen. You tell yourself you’re so busy you don’t have time, but you’ll do it next week. Suddenly a month or two has passed, figures are down, and it’s only now you start kicking yourself because you didn’t do what you said you would. A whole month’s delay: you’ve lost time, you’ve lost opportunities, and you’ve certainly lost money.

Who sets your deadlines?

The reality is that there’s no-one to enforce your deadline; no-one is going to tell you off or make you squirm. The only person who gets their stuff on time is the tax man: you can’t afford to make him angry, can you? So who do you report to, apart from the tax man? As the business grows, you’ll soon be planning with and reporting to a board or your shareholders. They certainly won’t be happy if you miss your deadlines.

Let’s take another scenario. You have a great idea and you’re so motivated that you get everything in place and launched in record time. Wow, super-productive! Soon you discover it was a really bad idea. You start asking yourself why you didn’t see the obvious problems, why you didn’t stop and think about what you were doing or whether you could have done it differently. Once again you’ve lost time, lost out on better opportunities, and probably lost lots of money.

Who should be your boss?

If you don’t have a boss and you can see yourself in the examples above, then it’s time to get one. But who do you choose?

  • a mentor: they’ll help guide you to become accountable
  • a business partner: joint directors are able to hold each other responsible
  • a business coach: I’m the boss to many of my coaching clients at some point
  • a non-executive director or a formal board
  • an advisory board, if you don’t have a formal board
  • investors or shareholders: they’ll be looking for their return, so they’ll make sure you stay on track

If you want someone who’s been there, done it, and got the T-shirt, then you need a mentor who’ll guide you through the maze. A business coach will keep you on track, tease out your own goals, identify and overcome problems with you. A formal board of directors will be there to help direct the business, to ensure everything is legal and correctly run. Non-executive directors bring an external perspective, expertise, experience, and a precious black book! An advisory board advises you, but doesn’t direct you. They meet with you regularly to assess progress, adjust plans, re-forecast, and help to knock down any barriers that your business encounters. Advisory boards are commonplace in the tech start-up arena.

Related Article: How Much Is A Business Coach?

I recently worked with some employees who were being made redundant when their plant closed down. I helped them to work through their own start-up business plans. Of the 20 or so groups I worked with, 12 didn’t launch. They all had great plans and the technical expertise to deliver them, but were they really going to be able to run a business? Throughout our discussions and planning sessions, it became clear that many of them realised that they needed a boss who would tell them what to do and when.

Faced with the reality of running their own company, they realised that the discipline, focus, and lack of time to work as a technician were not for them. They were all highly qualified, intelligent experts who managed teams within a clear structure, but they relished the large corporate culture. Swapping that structure, order, and direction to become a business owner was a dream that quickly fizzled out.

Megan was my boss when it came to writing my book, The Grown-Up Business. Her directions: 4000 words a week, rewrite this section, restructure that section, edit it, cut 10% of waffle words, find a publisher, do a pitch and sell the book! Only once did I miss a deadline – slap on the wrist for me, but I didn’t do it again. I didn’t want to let her down. I wanted to get the book finished for myself, obviously, but I needed someone to be my boss!

How to find a boss

Don’t just find any old boss: find the right one. You’ve got to work with them not against them. Find someone who has the right skills and values, someone you can get to know, like, trust, and respect.

  • Talk to other business owners. Who do they have as their boss? Do they have coaches, mentors, or advisors that they could introduce to you?
  • Decide if you want someone who knows you and your faults or an outsider, who is not going to let you get away with anything.
  • Pull all of your thoughts together into a checklist before you start to approach prospective bosses, to make sure that you find the right person.
  • Sit down and make a list of everyone you know who might fit the role. Now cross out the ones that don’t feel right. For those that remain, take a little more time to think if they’re the right person for you.

I've written a guide to help you select a business coach or business mentor. It's available to download Everything You Need to Know About Hiring A Business Coach

shirley-mansfield-CoachSME
Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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