12 May 2009

I was chatting to a business acquaintance recently when the topic turned to how and when an entrepreneur should expand their management team. One particular company was discussed as we both knew and had some knowledge of the principal and their business. As is the case in so many fledgling enterprises the business was doing very well, had built up an enviable customer list, was growing steadily and yet the owner seemed to be doing everything himself. One minute on the phone to a supplier, the next in the warehouse moving on to discussing finance and then dealing with an advert.

An entrepreneur has to be many things but they also need to know when to expand the top team to allow them to build the business rather than run the business. Too often a good business stalls because the owner cannot physically do more and they then become a bottleneck holding up all growth – the very thing which they should be concentrating on. A good example of how to bring in people at the right time is Karan Bilimoria the founder of Cobra beer. Despite being an accountant Karan still understood that the role of CEO meant that he had to delegate and this he did in 2001 with the appointment of a Financial Director.

“He was a godsend. He came in and took a huge weight off me. By taking on the FD role he freed me up. It shows the huge impact that a new member of a team can bring.”

Whatever the size of business and the skills of the owner there comes a time when a team has to be built at a senior level. Leave it too long and the business stalls and can crash, too early and the costs may be a limiting factor. It is a skill to determine the right time and that is where an external pair of eyes can help. Getting some independent advice from a trusted advisor can help the owner of a small business to see the problems that they are too close to identify.

An entrepreneur needs to get their hands dirty but not to the extent of being a “Jack of all trades”. Concentrate on what you are good at and expand your business through strategic thinking – it works. Just ask Karan Bilimoria!

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