From Entrepreneur to Leader: 6 Tips For a Successful Transition

To be an entrepreneur requires a special spark, and the urge to follow your own star rather than hitching on to the wagon train that’s headed towards someone else’s idea of success.  As HR people, we’ve all seen entrepreneurs in action, maybe even picked up the pieces after them as they drive the business relentlessly onwards!   


Entrepreneurs bring focus, energy, charisma, and creativity. Part of their success comes from breaking the rules and thinking outside the box. That’s great for a solo operator because the only person who suffers when things go wrong is the entrepreneur themselves — they burn their fingers, say ‘ouch’, learn their lesson and move on to the next thing.  


But to grow a business of substance, the entrepreneur needs to figure out how to work with other people. She needs to harness others’ creativity and energy rather than just relying on her own. Becoming a business leader is a whole new ball game. Here are my six tips to help those HR entrepreneurs make the transition into a leadership role:


1. Visualize Where You & Your Business Will Be

Where do you visualize you and your business will be a year from now and ten years from now? Create a picture in your mind of your successful self, dominating your market and running an awesome business. Don’t let doubts about juggling home life or anything else come in here — this is your positive vision of success and nothing should mess with it!


2. Set Goals and Stick to Them

Set yourself long-term goals, including business goals, financial targets, and personal development points. Break them down into shorter term goals so you’re always working towards achieving them. While you might be taking care of all aspects of the business in the beginning, as your business grows that will change. Look at where you will need to delegate work.


3. Let Go of Your Ego

Yes, I said it. You needed one to get  you this far, but don’t let it get in the way now that you’re bringing other people on board. It’s your business and you love it, but believing that you’re the only one who can run it will simply lead to self-destruction.

To avoid burning out, you’ll need to be comfortable sharing the responsibility of running your business. Invest your time and energy in hiring great people and training them so that they will be able to take on some of the load.


4. Hire a Great Team

Write a list of all the things that need to be done to grow your business. Tick the ones you’re good at and the ones you want to keep doing and make those into your job. Then hire great people to fill the gaps.

When you hire people to go out and represent your business, make sure they share your vision and values so they’re credible ambassadors. If they’re providing services or advice under your brand, they need to do it your way.

You know the theory, now go put it into practice! Create a company culture that you love and find others who love it too, and success will follow.


5. Keep it Flexible

Be open to working with people in different ways to meet the needs of the business. Use contracts creatively to flex the size of your team, so you keep your core costs low and bring in the right people when you need them.

You need a good network, so get out and meet lots of contacts. When you’re exploring working together, be clear about how much you’ll pay, what work you expect them to do, and how they should manage any client relationships.

Offer your associates a cut of the client fee if they bring some business to you. If you create a big enough pool of associates, you’ll always be able to call in a specialist when a project comes up. Best of all, you don’t have to sweat at the end of the month with a huge pay bill and not enough clients.


6. Remember Your Roots

Whether your roots are in HR, or somewhere else, remember what it felt like to be noticed by the top guy for doing a good job. You don’t need to understand Motivation Theory or  employee engagement measures to know how good it feels when someone says thank you. Stay meaningfully connected all the way down through your team, so that you notice when people are doing a good job. Tell them personally that you’ve noticed.

About the Author: Sharon Crooks is an HR Consultant and an expert in training business people and leaders to communicate effectively with their employees. Sharon is the co-author of a new book HR for Small Business for Dummies, which provides valuable insights into how to run a small business.

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