One of the hardest lessons that entrepreneurs have to learn as their business grows and becomes more successful is that you need to know when to step back and let the company flourish without being intimately involved in every detail.
Charles Pritchard, CEO and founder of Entelect, a highly successful customised software solutions firm based in Johannesburg, says that you as the entrepreneur need to learn that you can’t always be everything to everyone.
He goes on to say that you must always know your limitations and be able to realise when you need help, and when you need to step back.
Pritchard’s motto is to hire the best, live your values and the rest will follow, and to this he sticks firmly.
Keeping your eye on the ball
Over the past 13 years that Entelect has been in business, there have been a number of watershed moments that Pritchard has had to navigate through – each of which has usually been due to Pritchard himself needing to branch out and explore a developing passion or preference. He believes that these changes are natural and healthy.
Although the business is run by Pritchard, he found two key individuals with whom he learnt to share the responsibility. In 2008, Entelect went through a phase of end user product creation for all sectors of the market. Developing product takes money and they got swept up in the joy of creation.
Luckily, one of Pritchard’s top trusted employees stuck to their bread and butter and kept the focus on software solutions.
“Even though it was my business, I had a great team member who kept his eye on the ball because he cared about the business. It was a strong lesson for me to trust my top managers. If they have a vested interest in the business, and you give them room to grow, they’ll make decisions that are good for the company.”
Do what’s right for the business – not yourself
From this experience, Pritchard has also learnt another big lesson – don’t pivot too much. The secret is to know where your money comes from but also know where you are going or want to be going. “It took us a long time to learn that,” he admits.
Sometimes it’s necessary to push through with what you believe, says Pritchard, and follow your heart in keeping up to date with your passions, but have the right people around you who you can trust with your vision in the meantime.
Recruitment was once Entelect’s main ticket, but eventually that section of the company was shut down. Pritchard explains that it was a psychological move and that he has to keep fine tuning his business and allowing it to shift as a whole.
It was a difficult one, but one that ended up making the most sense for where he and the company were headed.
As an entrepreneur you need to be hard on yourself and welcome constructive criticism from your senior management. “Someone with an ego would see it as disrespectful, but you have to find that balance,” says Pritchard.
“I want my top managers to be open with me, because they often look at the business with different eyes to my own. It’s important to not have any holy cows. Everything should be up for debate, and you should listen to what others have to say. Being open to change is what will allow your company to keep growing.”