From Maker to Manager: It’s Crap Because I’m Doing It

This is the third post in an ongoing series about the transition from maker to manager.1

When The Iron Yard was born there were two people (me and Peter Barth) sitting in an empty room. Peter was still acting CTO of a software company at the time, meaning that I had my hands in every single part of the business. For the entrepreneurially-inclined, having every songle part of a business under your purview is enthralling because you finally have the chance to do things how you think they should be done.

Today, there are 35 employees across 7 locations at The Iron Yard—a long ways from two people in an empty room. For me, the process of going from maker to manager has been a significant learning experience. One crucial part of that journey has been learning to delegate responsibility. When your company is an infant taking its first steps, you have your hands on everything by necessity. As it grows, though, healthy progresas will be reflected in shifting responsibility of leaders from producing things to empowering others to produce things. Those can be hard steps to take.

Sometimes delegating is difficult because we like having control. Other times that’s difficult because we’re just so used to doing everything that our habits create myopia and we can’t actually see that we need to delegate tasks.

I regularly eat breakfast with a good friend who runs an amazing non-profit organization2, which in many ways is a startup in its own right. We’ve been talking through what marketing looks like for his company and the subject of donor newsletters came up. I asked him, “What are your newsletter updates like? Are you investing in that communication?” His response was brilliant:

It’s crap because I’m doing it.

I laughed, because the exact same thing was true of us at The Iron Yard. I had kept the responsibility of writing newsletters on my plate and the result was worse than crap quality—they weren’t being produced at all.

It’s a strange position to take, but my friend’s comment challenged me to look at our business and ask, “what’s not working, low quality, or not getting done because I’m responsible?”

1. You can see all of the posts in the series, From Maker to Manager, here.2. Learn more about Ryan and Great Outdoor Adventure Trips (GOAT) on their website.

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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

2 thoughts on “From Maker to Manager: It’s Crap Because I’m Doing It”

  1. As a freelance graphic designer I’m always approached by clients who want me to do the “hard stuff” and they’re content with the rest being “crap” because they’re doing it under the assumption that they can’t afford to have me do it. It’s the same for me though, believe it or not. If I don’t set aside time, schedule it in, my marketing, my design … it just doesn’t get done. It ain’t easy 🙂 You’re doing a great job at The Iron Yard!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Heather. Great point about this paradigm applying to everyone. It’s the case of the cobbler’s shoes with client work—you get so busy making stuff for them that you can’t pay attention to yourself. I’ve been there many times my self.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I love hearing your perspective.

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