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Relinquishing Control: A Founder’s Internal Challenge

Start-ups
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Written by: Caterina Araujo

This is a guest post from Catarina Araujo, Director of Canopy Global Group.

The early days (realistically, months) of starting a business are about setting up a website (marketing);
tracking financials (accounting); registering the business (legal); finding the right employees and/or
business partners (HR); finding clients (sales); and perfecting your product or service offer (strategy).
This inevitably means 18-hour days of continuous screen time and meals at your desk, with only an
occasional break to stock up on snacks and caffeine (sound familiar?). It’s an all-consuming but exciting
time when you’re running on adrenaline and passion for your project. Eventually the business officially
launches. But even after you hire someone to handle some of the workload, the reality is you’re still
managing every little thing in the company, from updating your website to booking couriers. The
distinction between you as a founder and the business itself has become decidedly blurred because,
simply put: without you, there is no business.

Having done it all yourself in the early days and controlling and shaping the business exactly as you wish, gives founders a powerful feeling of independence and total control. But that’s a very difficult feeling to abandon when the time comes to do so. Eventually, all growing businesses hire specialists for the various areas of the business: for example, you hire a CFO or FD for your finances and a Sales Director for your business development. Founders often look at these hires with enthusiasm, as they signify the steady growth of the company. But one area of work that can be delegated is often forgotten or actively avoided: admin.

If you’ve started your own business, you surely see that it doesn’t make financial sense to have a
founder, whose hourly rate is many times higher than that of a PA, waste their valuable hours doing
tasks they can assign to someone who is not only better at those tasks, but also more affordable.
Mentally and logistically, it also makes sense to hire someone to offload certain decisions onto, saving
founders’ energy for important decisions, thereby avoiding decision fatigue: the idea that after you have
made a certain number of decisions in a certain amount of time, your ability to make good decisions
deteriorates due to the mentally taxing nature of decision-making. A founder’s “good decisions” should
be reserved for strategy and clients, not for picking out a terrific venue for the company Christmas party.

Decision fatigue is arguably why it’s such a relief having someone cook you dinner after a long day, than
to get home and have to think about what to cook or order in.
Successful entrepreneurs regularly cite personal assistants as one of the keys to their achievements… so why are some founders so reluctant to delegate admin to a personal assistant, the way they delegate finances to a CFO? In a way, it’s surprising, as personal and executive assistants arguably offer a greater breadth of support and a much closer working relationship to business owners than any other individual in that company does. That’s because their job is you, the founder. They will do whatever they can do to support, empower, protect, and promote you and your reputation. Aside from safeguarding founders’ time and energy, personal assistants work tirelessly on the tasks founders never wanted to do in the first place, such as sorting through emails, booking event venues, screening calls, and scheduling meetings.

Despite all the advantages of having a trusted sidekick, many founders struggle with delegating that
level of access and decision-making to an assistant (at least in the beginning). Giving complete access to your emails and your calendar to someone else can be both intimate and intimidating. But a good PA 
will keep you in tune with your priorities by sieving out and dealing with less important matters on your
behalf. Soon enough, you’ll make fewer, but better, decisions. What seemed intimidating before, is now
vital for your productivity.

For some, hiring a PA means admitting where your personal weaknesses lie (for example, you’re not
great with time management) as it can leave you feeling exposed or vulnerable. Once you accept that
you’re not perfect (and that your assistant is there to help, not judge), you’ll see that they fill whatever
minor gaps you have. Using the example above: if time management or punctuality isn’t your strong
suit, a good PA will arrange your schedule to accommodate that, and they will prompt you if you’re
running late. Once you overcome these mental barriers and truly let your PA in, you start to present
your best self to the outside world.

Yes – at first, relinquishing some control over something as intimate as your calendar or your inbox
might be a significant internal challenge. But we dare you to find a founder who succeeded without the
support of a personal or executive assistant. It’s a rite of passage that propels you to success.

Arrange a consultation with Canopy Global Group today and get started on relinquishing control and focussing where it matters.