Are You Building Something Great?

Or are you building a monument to yourself?

9 years ago I set out to build a company that could stand on it’s own; a company that didn’t necessarily depend on me personally.

I might have been too successful :)

I just spent 10 days out of the country with half of my management team. I didn’t check email or voicemail once. By every measure possible, Ripple performed better than it does when I am here. I have been sitting at my desk for 45 minutes and I am completely caught up. So caught up that I have the time to write a damn blog entry. And that’s a good thing.

Can you do that? Can you leave your company or department behind without worrying that it will catch on fire? If you can’t, are you trying to get there? It’s hard sometimes because our ego can get in the way, no? It can feel unimportant to be unneeded. You might fear for your job or your status. You might get bored. There are a host of things that make one want to feel indispensable. But I would argue that just like creating processes, that is often ego driven and never in an organization’s best interests.

So if building an organization or department that depends on no single person (particularly you) is appealing, here are the things that I think make it possible. Sort of a recap of a year of posts on the topic (yes, the links are to my own "wisdom nuggets", so take them with a grain – or nine – of salt):

  1. Hire people that are smarter than you, better than you, and passionately involved in the company (or department).
  2. Build processes that allow people to more easily fill in for other people. That is, create a unit – not single points of failure.
  3. Build a business model that allows for scale, rather than one that grows purely based on hiring additional people. For those of you that know me you know that that means not billing for time. When you bill for time, your company suffers every time someone is gone. And so do your customers.
  4. Lead by creating opportunities for others, not just yourself.

So where does that leave you (and me)? Meaningless? Bored? Unneeded? Hardly. It creates freedom. Freedom to think creatively. Freedom to develop people and relationships. Freedom to take risks. And freedom to grow.

Best of all? Building something that is a sum greater than its parts is one of the best feelings in the world.

A special shout out to the people that made freedom possible: Rob, Rich, Beth, Homer, Steve, Nathan, Matt, James, Joyce, Lani and Andy.

A double special shout out to the Great Eight that proved it all last week: Rich, Steve, Nathan, Matt, James, Joyce, Lani and Andy.

3 thoughts on “Are You Building Something Great?

  1. To Mike’s list I would add a number 5:

    Keep your people invested and passionate by sharing everything with them. Ripple keeps a clear focus and maintains transparency using Open Book Management.

  2. I would watch that Andy person you spoke of. I’m almost positive that I saw him standing outside the building with a maniacal look in his eye and a match in his hand.

  3. This is very similar sentiment to one of the best books I have ever read: the E-Myth – by Michael Gerber. In this book, the author speaks about working on and not in your business. He recommends that the first thing you do when being hired/promoted into a job is to find your successor and train him/her into your job. If you are indispensable, you are unpromtable. Amazon have it at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887303625/sr=8-3/qid=1148374148/ref=pd_bbs_3/104-0087726-6767906?%5Fencoding=UTF8.

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