We know that delegation is hard, and we know that it’s essential for any business owner trying to get out of the weeds of micromanagement. (Our Front Range President, Steve Van Diest, has a skill multiplication strategy that can help smooth out that particular process, by the way.) But there’s another angle to consider: the value it adds to your business when you make yourself replaceable.


A case study

Here’s an example of the very real impact owner dependence can have on business value: in 2012, Jaclyn Johnson founded Create & Cultivate, a media company that educates and inspires women to succeed in business. In 2018, an acquirer offered her a staggering $40 million for the company – but the deal turned out to be too good to be true. When the acquirer discovered that the business’s success continued to be entirely dependent on Johnson’s daily elbow grease and brainpower, they pulled out. A few years down the road, Johnson was able to sell her business – for half the amount she’d previously been offered.

If your company is dependent on you personally as owner, it could cost you. The most valuable companies don’t rely on the owner’s involvement to succeed, but finding extraordinary talent equipped for the challenge of functionally replacing you can be difficult.


What NOT to do (if you're an entrepreneur)

Finding a general manager, second-in-command, or Chief Operating Officer to replace yourself – taking the helm on “your” essential tasks and processes – is one of the hardest projects you may ever tackle as a business owner. This is especially true if you’re an entrepreneur and founder of a smaller, younger company.

Whether you rely on a recruiter, paid advertising, or your personal network to find candidates, one of the first steps to shortlisting talent is a comprehensive review of their background. That’s when many founders and owners make the common error of being bamboozled by a Fortune 500 name on a resume or LinkedIn profile. While a stint at a big company may be impressive, the skills held in high regard at a Fortune 500 company tend to differ from what most young companies need.

Big companies often have well-established processes, systems, and hierarchies that have contributed to their success. People that thrive in big companies tend to excel at winning within a predetermined framework. But if you own a younger, scrappier start-up, there may be no framework to follow, which is why big company veterans often struggle in a more entrepreneurial environment.

Instead of basing your hires off an impressive name on a resume, look for someone innovative, comfortable with uncertainty, action-oriented, and creative—someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, like you.


The four strategies

Here’s how to identify innovative candidates when making hiring decisions:

  1. Look for problem-solvers: Innovation involves finding creative solutions to all kinds of problems. Look for candidates that have demonstrated the ability to think strategically and produce innovative solutions in the past, and ask them to describe their approach to problem-solving during the interview. This will give you insight into their thought processes and willingness to take risks and think creatively.
  2. Evaluate their learning agility: You want whoever replaces you to be adaptable and willing to learn. Look for candidates with a history of taking on new challenges and learning new skills.
  3. Assess their ability to work in teams: Innovation often involves collaboration, so look for candidates that have demonstrated the ability to work effectively in teams. Ask about their past experiences working in teams and how they contributed to the success of those teams.
  4. Consider their creativity: Look for candidates that have a creative portfolio or have pursued creative hobbies or projects outside of work. This can be a good indicator of their potential to bring new and innovative ideas to your organization.

Right now, your company probably relies on you for a healthy dose of creativity and innovation. But if your goal is to make yourself replaceable, following these five strategies can increase your chances of identifying candidates who will bring their own fresh thinking and creativity to the organization.

Interested in more resources around delegation for once you’ve found your innovative replacements? Check out our free ebook.