Each morning, he arrived at work at 5:30, opened up, tidied up after last night’s class, marked the assignments that had been handed in, prepared for the day’s lessons and filled the water cooler.
Before the evening class, he would copy the bank statement into the cashbook and record the invoices from the post and the fees received that day. After the class, he would lock up.
On the week-ends, he paid the bills, did the maintenance and anything else that hadn’t been done during the week. If you have been a start-up entrepreneur, you’ll understand: you just have to do everything yourself.
When he did sleep, my father dreamed of having a national college with campuses in all the main cities.
He hired me to share the load, but he still opened up and locked up and worked just as hard. It was years before he trusted me to take over any of his responsibilities.
Slowly we enrolled more students, hired more lecturers, grew the college.
Now that there were two of us sharing the office load, we could focus on doing things better, more efficiently. But our mind-set hadn’t changed. We still did all the work ourselves.
I took on people who knew more than I did
I didn’t have the knowledge that he had, so when my father died, I hired people who knew the course theory, how to do the accounts, how to do marketing. I took a business course so that I could understand how business works. I learned to strategise. With a strong team, we slowly grew the college, opening other campuses and offered more courses. We made expensive mistakes, we recovered and learned from them.
College for sale
Last year, I sold the major share of the business to management. Looking back, that was the best thing I could have done for the college.
Because of circumstances, I had I developed a small business mentality. I had good people around me who were more knowledgeable and capable than I was. But I still worked IN the business more than ON the business. We had strategic planning meetings, but I was still hands-on in implementing the plans.
first published in SME South Africa
IN vs ON
The new owners are bigger thinkers who don’t believe they have to do everything themselves. Their staff do the day-to-day work, and experts do the specialised stuff. And that frees them up to do the important things, like making the big decisions. They still have to find out a lot about business, and they might make bigger mistakes than I made, but that’s okay, it’s one of the ways that we all learn.So, what’s the take out? If I had stayed on with my small business mind-set, I could have stunted the college’s future growth. I was so busy working IN my business rather than ON my business.
What about you? Where are you in your business’ trajectory? Are you helping your business to grow or hampering it?
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