09 October 2022 |

Why founders need to get off the floor and onto the balcony


So let’s imagine your company is a nightclub. 

As the founder of a nightclub, every night you have three locations to spend your time:

  • The dance floor
  • The balcony
  • The Office

When you are on the dance floor, you can connect with people, feel the energy, and experience what is working and what is not. (It’sIt’s also a ton of fun or an absolute nightmare, depending on your personality.)

When you step away from the dance floor and onto the balcony, you can gain perspective about each moving part of the club and how they work together.

In the office, you have control of who is in the room, and can close the door to get work done by yourself as needed. 

Now imagine this nightclub is your business.

Where do you spend most of your time? 

Where should you be spending more time?

Each location has its advantages and disadvantages.

Too much time on the dance floor means you’re working in the business instead of on the business. You likely have great relationships with the customers and employees because you are always in the mix. 

But because you are so involved in the day-to-day operations, you can’t take a step back and gain perspective on the big-picture stuff that will help you make strategic decisions about how your company will operate.

Founders who spend too much time on the balcony won’t have the opportunity to develop trust with their people or to be able to understand problems bubbling up in their company.

So how do you balance it all?

Moving from the floor to the balcony is a difficult transition. It requires you to invest your time in building systems and developing people who can perform each task. 

You also have to resist the urge to step in and fix things yourself when things go wrong. Instead, focus on what systems need to be repaired and consistently develop the people on your team.

While on the floor, remember the perspective you have from the 30ft view. Your team needs consistency, and you can provide this by connecting your decisions to your company’s mission.

Most problems that you see are only symptoms.

To find the real problem, you have to dig deeper.

On the floor, you will gain a better understanding of the symptoms. Then, challenge yourself to understand what changes can be made to address multiple symptoms instead of trying to attack them all individually.

Here are a few problems that often lead to many symptoms if not resolved:

  • Lack of Trust
  • Insufficient tools
  • Unclear expectations
  • Inconsistent Communication

Next, get off the floor and get onto the balcony. 

Spending time on the balcony will help you see more clearly how the parts work together.

When you are on the balcony, invite people with you. This means you’ll have to be transparent about your company’s mission, vision, and strategies. It also requires you to let them look under the hood and see how all the parts work together. (Even the pieces of your organization that are still progressing.)

From the balcony, you can see what parts of your business are thriving and where support is needed. Great leaders don’t allow fires to consume all of their time. Give yourself a minimum expectation to visit each part of your organization. For example, if you own a chain of franchise food locations, you likely won’t visit each site each week, but you can commit to monthly or quarterly visits. 

These visits will allow you to connect with your team and better understand what you see from the balcony.

Invite people from all levels into the office with you also. Take time to get to know individuals in intimate groups. These can be employees or customers. 

Your office is a tool, but be cautious about using it as an escape. If you need a vacation, take it. Taking a couple of days off won’t kill your business, but burnout will.