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I had a conversation with a small business owner (SBO) recently that went like this:

SBO: “I feel like I’m forever answering everyone’s questions rather than focusing on the business. It’s maddening.”

ME: “Tell me about the kinds of questions they ask.”

SBO: “It’s everything, from whether to give a customer a 5% discount for late delivery to where to place inventory in the stock room.”

ME: “Do they believe they have permission to make those decisions on their own?”

SBO: “They should be able to figure it out. It’s common sense.”

ME: “Your average employee stays about a year, right? At what point do you coach them on making decisions on their own and where the parameters are?”

SBO: “That’s the common sense thing. If they can’t figure that out, they shouldn’t be making those kind of decisions.”

ME: “So if they don’t figure that out, they spend the entire year asking you questions.”

SBO: “When you put it like that, it sounds like I’m the problem.”

ME: “You really have a choice. You can give them parameters when you first hire them and trust them to use their best judgment. Or you can let them figure it out over a series of months and ask you endless questions along the way.”

SBO: “So it’s a choice between control or having the time to do my other work.

ME: “Sort of. It’s really a choice between control and business success.


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