Bryan Miles, CEO, eaHELP
When you’ve started an organization from the ground up, it can be really tempting to keep it a one-man (or woman) show. You’re the one who’s taken the risks, endured the sleepless nights, poured out the sweat and tears to get your company off the ground. But in order to keep your company growing, and to keep your company culture healthy, you as the leader have to face what can be some pretty hard truths about yourself. I’ve wrestled with all of these as I’ve grown my leadership and my companies over the past several years, so I’m not telling you anything I haven’t done or learned myself. Here are the top three things I believe CEOs have to learn if they’re going to be successful long-term.
1. You can’t be the hero. If you want to see some serious growth in your business (I’m talking sales figures over $1 million, which only a small percentage of businesses achieve) you’ve got to get out of your own way. One of the first lessons I learned in growing my business was that I was the only one keeping the lid on it. By holding onto my leadership, I was keeping my business from growing. I had to have a serious conversation with myself about what I wanted my business to be. I determined that I wanted something substantial and meaningful to come out of my entrepreneurship, and that I wanted to own companies rather than run companies. To do that, I had to empower the leaders I’d hired and delegate portions of my leadership away to them. Once I did, my businesses and my leaders flourished at levels I would have never experienced on my own.
No true leader of a company of any size says, “I’m the only one that got us to this place.” If you want to enable your business to grow, you’ve got to empower your leaders to help grow it. If you want to stay the hero, your business will stay small. If you want to be big, then you’ve got to let everyone else be the hero.
2. Start small and hire smart. All my businesses have started on a shoestring—or a bootstrap, or whatever piece of footwear you want to choose. My wife (and co-founder) and I knew that we didn’t want to accept any outside funding and wanted to retain control of over all our operations. Because of that, we had to start really small and be extremely strategic in how we hired. Our first employee came on board for a whole five hours a week—and she’s now the president of eaHELP. We leveraged scalable hiring practices, using part-time employees, contractors and freelancers to build out several key areas of our businesses. Not only did this allow us to get the skills and talent we needed for business growth in ways we could afford, it connected us with the people who’ve become key leaders in our organizations today. We had a chance to get to know them, and for them to get to know us, and for each to see if we wanted to keep working together in the future.
3. Help everyone know the WHY. My primary job as a CEO is not to hire or train or manage our financials. Those are all parts of my daily duties, of course, but my main job is to remind everyone on my teams WHY we’re doing what we do. I don’t tell people what to do anymore—I tell them WHY. I leave the “what” up to my leaders, and trust them to get those jobs done. When I do that, I’m telling them that I trust them to figure out the best solutions and that I don’t need to micromanage them. Of course I am there for them, and willing to think critically with them, however, they’re experienced professionals, and I treat them like it. Trust is the currency that helps any organization in any industry grow. If you don’t trust people, your business simply will not grow. Not only will it not grow, it most likely will die a slow death.
It can be tempting to keep your operations all to yourself—I get that. But only by summoning up the same courage you found when you started your business, and entrusting some (or most) of your responsibilities to those around you, will you have any chance of seeing where that business can go and the impact it can have on other lives.
About the Author
Bryan Miles is CEO & co-founder of Miles Advisory Group, Inc., which is the parent company of eaHELP, the leading executive virtual assistant provider, and MAG Bookkeeping, a virtual bookkeeper serving churches. Miles Advisory Group was founded in late 2010 with eaHELP and MAG Bookkeeping quickly developing into distinct brands. Miles oversees the organization in partnership with his wife and co-founder Shannon Miles, who serves as COO. Prior to starting Miles Advisory Group, Miles worked for companies in the tech and construction industries including his role as vice president of consulting for Cogun, a national church construction company. Miles obtained his Bachelor of Arts in business from Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio.