“I had no more friggin’ time.”
Stephane Rouleau is talking, quickly and passionately, about the moment he came of age as an entrepreneur. Ever since he co-founded Montreal-based software developer Innobec Technologies Inc. in 2003, he enthusiastically embraced the jack-of-all-trades identity so common among people shepherding a business through the startup phase. An engineer by trade, Rouleau found project management, IT and even accounting well-suited to his skills—at least at first. As the company grew, so, too, did his workweek—to 65 hours, to 70, to 75-plus. Then he enrolled in a full-time MBA program, too. Suddenly, he simply wasn’t able to deliver things he’d promised. Staff, frustrated by his unavailability, started doing things without consulting him. The relentless pace he had thrived on stopped feeling exhilarating.
That’s when Rouleau got—really got—the message he’d been disingenuously telling himself for years: he had to step away from the day-to-day. He’d read the books; he knew, intellectually, that he had to adopt the “work on the business, not in the business” ethos. “I’d thought it rationally, but until then, it wasn’t something I felt in my gut,” Rouleau says. “It hadn’t hurt enough.”
I had no more friggin time.
That “hurt” of just not having the time to do a lot of his work, let alone think about the business, forced Rouleau to make a choice: he could scale down the company (not an option), he could burn out (not ideal) or he could delegate. He opted for the last option, beginning a process that would challenge the identity around which he’d built his life. “As entrepreneurs, we are the business,” he says. “Letting go of that is not easy.”
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Like Rouleau, you may hate the thought of relinquishing day-to-day control, but doing so could be the smartest decision you ever make. Study after study has shown that growing companies stagnate when the founder meddles in the small stuff instead of thinking big-picture. What’s more, the annals of entrepreneurship are filled with stories of enlightened CEOs whose companies—not to mention their personal well-being—improved dramatically as soon as they brought in senior management to