8 Steps to Escape the Handcuffs of your Founder’s Knowledge

The majority of automotive aftermarket businesses are built on the relationships, hard work, and knowledge of the founder.

Small- and medium-sized companies rely on the leadership, direction, and input of these founders. This reliance on founders has the power to eventually drive the company into the ground. There are unlimited demands on your time. Your inbox is overflowing, your phone won’t stop ringing, and you’re needed in every location at once. You can’t possibly fulfill all of these requests, and as a result your business stagnates.

Sound familiar?

In working with one of my clients, a 10-year old custom build, performance, and body shop with an incredibly strong brand, I have developed and implemented an 8-step plan to allow the founders to step back from the day-to-day, which is briefly summarized by this article.

1) Establish basic systems and processes

2) Develop a strategic vision

3) Capture all knowledge

4) Assess and build the right leadership team

5) Train the team

6) Delegate as much as possible

7) Evaluate the team and retrain as needed

8) Look up and out

9) Repeat steps 6-8

Establish Basic Systems and Processes

First, collect some data on what you’re doing right now.

  • Spend 1 week tracking everything you do. Ask your team to do the same.

  • What are your daily tasks (empty your unread emails, plan the work for the following day)? Weekly tasks (reconcile your books, ensure deliveries are on time)? Monthly tasks (payroll, team dinner)?

  • What is your procedure to execute recurring activities? Do you offer group buys? How do you fulfill them? Do you make custom builds? What steps need to be taken to make sure they are completed? Do you have a checklist for these steps? Make one.

  • Where are there dependencies and bottlenecks in your tasks? Cash flow, timing, personnel, and other factors play a role in completing your responsibilities.

Write down the responsibilities and steps needed to complete regular activities. Give them to one of your employees, see if they can do what you’re asking. If not, add detail and explanations.

Rinse and repeat with every recurring task done by every employee. Make training and delegation simple.

Develop a strategic vision

Where do you want to take your company? Many founders get so caught up in the day-to-day that they don’t have time to consider the bigger picture. How will you approach major business opportunities and lead your company if you don’t know what direction you’re taking it?

Your strategic vision should be written in the manner I described in the 1st edition of DPA Weekly.

Capture all knowledge

Write. It. Down. My clients kept everything from employment agreements to pricing strategy to customer relationship history and suppliers’ phone numbers in their head. I don’t care what it is, write it down. Keep it safe and legally protected, but write it down.

Writing down all the information stored in your head will enable you to delegate everything that does not require your input or expertise. Free your mind.

Assess and build the right leadership team

Your team must be comprised of leaders. You are the only leader right now, and that has to change. You need the following characteristics in your leadership team in order to escape your handcuffs of founders’ knowledge:

· Trustworthiness

· High Competence

· Successful Track Record

· Confidence

· Maximum Levels of Ownership

Assess your current team for these traits. If they are missing any piece of this, it’s time to remove them from your organization or place them in a non-leadership role that suits their contribution.

Train the team

You now have systems, processes, and knowledge captured. Educate your team on them. You know best – you created it all. But now you have to pass it on. Educate using the following method:

1) First, explain the task to your team.

2) Then, perform the task with your team watching.

3) Finally, let your team perform the task with you watching.

Make sure all knowledge that isn’t specifically related to a task is recorded and your team knows where the records are.

This gives both you and your team the confidence in a successful knowledge transfer. Keep your door open for questions as you continue to unlock your handcuffs.

Delegate as much as possible

Does it require your specific expertise (that you haven’t yet trained) or affect overall company strategy? If not, delegate. You must trust your team. You must train your team well in order to trust them. Eventually, you will have to take a leap of faith, let go, and trust them.

Evaluate the team and retrain as needed

When you delegate and see tasks getting performed to a sufficient standard, leave them alone. Perform randomized quality checks if you deem it necessary. If tasks are not performed to your standards, provide guidance. Re-educate. Find holes in your education and fill them.

Look up and out

Your company is now running itself. You have delegated important tasks to people you trust. You have explained what needs to be done. You are available to answer important questions and provide guidance.

Now you can focus outside of your company. What is happening in the market? What are your competitors doing? Do you have any predictions for the future of the industry that you can prepare for? What new product can you create and use to capture new market share?


Delegate, educate, and look up and out. Repeat. Build trust. Eventually your company will not need you anymore and you can involve yourself in creating a legacy.

Want to talk about how to escape the handcuffs? Send me an email: arun@drivenperformanceadvisors.com


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