Like it or not, you are the “dictator” of your business.
Yes, you depend on clients to provide revenue, you rely on employees and vendors to provide services, and the government expects you to pay taxes.
But as long as you aren’t doing anything illegal, you can do effectively whatever you want in your business—as a business owner, what you say, goes.
This level of absolute power is good—if you’re a benevolent dictator—and bad—if you let the power go to your head.
Let’s look at the implications of your being your agency’s dictator.
You have the ability to create meaningful, well-paying jobs for your employees—and you can also make their life miserable.
People don’t like uncertainty. If you keep changing direction, they don’t feel safe. When employees don’t feel safe, they’re going to look for a job—or a company—that feels safer.
Talk with a trusted deputy before you roll out new policies that make life harder for your employees. And think things through, rather than just declaring it the law of the land.
Remember, your employees have choices—just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it.
You get to make the policies, and you create the rewards structures—are you creating incentives to retain clients, or to repel clients?
If you have difficult clients, I recommend that you make a plan for replacing them. The revenue isn’t worth it—especially if it means you’re on track to lose good employees.
As the dictator, you’re either showing employees that they’re more important than revenue from jerky clients—or showing that the jerky clients are more important than the employees.
If you’re not sure where to start, using my Client Ranking Matrix—it’s a free tool to help you decide which clients to grow vs. which clients to fire. The matrix will likely help you increase your profits, too.
Think about the “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable. Like it or not, your team may be reluctant to tell you you’re not wearing any clothes.
To be fair, that reluctance makes sense—at the moment, you control their ability to pay their mortgage or their rent every month.
Stop shooting the messenger.
When things happen on your whim, everyone wants an audience with you.
Employees always want your attention anyway, but when your personal approval is the only way for your team to get resources to do their job, there’s going to be a constant line at your door.
This can also lead to back-stabbing, if employees perceive that they lose out if someone else gets what they want.
As the dictator, you can fix things fast, if you want to—but you have to want to.
Are people telling you about problems before they get worse… or sugar-coating the problems?
As the dictator of your agency, you can develop new products and services quickly—this might be good or bad, depending on how well you’re attuned to market needs.
Unless you’re Steve Jobs, get feedback—and market validation—before investing major resources into your pet idea.
If you want to choose a new direction, you absolutely can. But it’s going to be a lot easier if you get your team’s buy-in first, before you start heading in that new direction.
Besides, you should be delegating execution anyway—your job is to set the strategy and ensure it happens, not to handle every detail along the way.
It’s your prerogative to make whatever office policies you want—but if they’re stupid or self-serving, your employees aren’t going to be happy.
For instance, I’ve noticed that “dog-friendly office” often really means, “The owner brings their dog to work because they don’t want to pay for a dog walker.” That is, “dog-friendly” is the policy, but no one else feels comfortable bringing their dog to the office.
If your designer has been asking for a larger monitor for a year, and you suddenly come in with a brand new display—and there’s no business need for you to have that display—it’s not going to go over well. As my dad told me growing up—from his experience in the Army—”leaders eat last.”
Making a Change at Your Agency
Review this list—do you recognize problems at your agency? If so, it may be time to shift toward becoming a benevolent dictator. You’ll be glad you did!
You can do almost anything you want—but your team and your clients will vote with their feet.
Question: What have you noticed about being the “dictator” of your agency?