Do you remember what your agency felt like in the first few years?

The immense feeling of freedom.

No more bosses, a chance to put your own ideas into action, and to work how you like. A small team, working flexibly and rapidly. Winning against the odds.

But as your agency grows this feeling can fade.

Responsibilities attach to you like barnacles to a boat, slowing you down.

Problems and upsets come with them, draining your energy.

You end up feeling like you spend each day dashing round checking on everything, fighting fires. Never quite getting to do the work that feels like being a founder.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

It is possible to maintain, or regain, that feeling of freedom. But you have to actively work on it.

It's like weeding a garden, cutting back the brambles, giving plants the space to grow. It's not something you do once and it's done.

Superfounders make the effort, consciously or subconsciously, to regularly work on liberating themselves and their staff.

This Liberation is the L in the FLAME agency leadership framework, which provides a guide for what you can do when you get time to work at a higher altitude in your business.

The brilliant thing is, it's a virtuous circle. The more you liberate yourself from the day to day of the business, the more you liberate your team to do their best work. And the more you liberate your team, the more you liberate yourself.

So, this week in your founder time, look at some next steps you can take to liberate yourself and your agency. Here are some simple ideas to get started...

  • Who's ready to be challenged with more responsibility? Spread the role of leadership around the organisation. It's not a job title it's a behaviour. Encourage people to step up, and coach them.
  • What processes, policies and rules could be simplified? Or even removed and replaced with expecting people to be grown-up, intelligent and use your agency behaviours/values to guide their actions?
  • When people bring you problems, respond with questions instead of answers: "What do you think the options are?", "Which do you think is the best thing to do?" etc. Step away from becoming 'the answer'.
  • When problems occur, resist the temptation to decide the solution and hand out tasks. Coach members of your team to find the solutions and act on it. Step back from being 'the firefighter'.
  • Provide guiding principles for decision making, and push decisions as close to the action as possible — away from management in the centre. Ensure decisions are made consultatively, but without expecting or requiring consensus.
  • Show people that they are free to have dissenting views and to express them healthily, by being eager and grateful for challenge and discussion.
  • Book yourself more time out of the business. Go do things that energise you and begin to show your team they need to work effectively without you always being there. You'd be amazed at the empowering effect of you simply not being there (but yes, you have to let your ego be okay with that).

Remember, this is like gardening. In your founder time, regularly keep working on liberating yourself and your team.

You can run a thriving, growing agency and still have that founder feeling of freedom.