Who wants to be in charge?

It’s half term this week. My wife is an oncology nurse and spends some time at the amazing Penny Brohn Cancer Care centre (they do amazing work, for more information have a look here).

My children are 10 (son) and 13 (daughter) and this morning both me and Mrs B had to go to work. We thought it might be interesting if we gave the kids a tenner each and dropped them in town, near my office. They had to buy breakfast, go to the museum, and generally entertain themselves until Mrs B picked them up at 11.30.

On the way in, I explained to them that they had to act as a team. Big sister was in charge but mustn’t be bossy, younger brother wasn’t to complain. They were to work together, each taking responsibility.

At this point my son asked me a question which stopped me in my tracks. “What happens, Dad, if someone doesn’t want to take any responsibility?”

It’s a cracking question, and one that fits in with some thinking I’ve been doing recently about business owners. I’ve just become an associate of Quiver Management to deliver coaching (mainly) to business owners, including the Growth Accelerator programme. We’re also working on tweaking the business coaching skills workshop to train IFAs in a series of courses for threesixty.

One of the most common issues that comes out of coaching sessions is that being in charge is a lonely place to be. A number of years ago I posted a blog called MD Bingo. The idea is that there are a few rites of passage that a business owner must go through. I’ve talked with many business owners about this over the years, and could easily triple that list with stories I’ve heard. But the real underlying message of this blog is that the boss has all the responsibility.

Almost every adviser I have interviewed has at some point asked a variation of the question “Will there be an opportunity for me to be involved in the business, to become a director?” It seems endemic in our industry that advisers are constantly thinking of leaving and setting up on their own. The issue of contacting clients and whether non-solicitation clauses are enforceable has been a perennial topic ever since I can remember.

But with being in charge comes responsibility. Such as for paying the monthly staff salaries. Being prepared to put your own money into the business if things aren’t going well. To make changes and have your own earnings affected by the outcome. To not make a contribution to your own pension for ten years because you are trying to build a business.

The answer I gave my son – after a few minutes of contemplation – was that if someone doesn’t want to take responsibility then they have to accept the decisions of others.  But if they do want to have a say in what happens, they need to take responsibility for the outcome. 

All too often one hears people complaining about something, but not taking the responsibility to do something about it. It was the case when I was a school governor, when I worked for large corporates, and I’ve heard it in 16 years running my own business. So my message for you comment on is this. If you want things to change, or to be in charge, or to be rewarded over and above a salary – get involved, and take responsibility for the outcome.

And if you don’t, that’s absolutely fine. But then don’t complain.

You probably know that Chris has recently published his first novel. If you didn’t know, click here