How to be a good control freak

Cynthia L. Umphrey
by Cynthia L. Umphrey

Are you a control freak? If you’re an entrepreneur, I bet you are, at least a bit.  I know I am, at least a bit.  My experience with the pain and pleasure of letting go comes from three sources. As a full time lawyer at Kemp Klein Law Firmsince 1997 with mainly entrepreneurs as clients, I gained internal and external experience.  As a co-owner of The Learning Experience of South Lyon, a child development center with over 200 children that opened in 2007, and co-owner of Sixluxe LLC, started in 2010 designing revolutionary women’s clothes for day wear and travel, I gained pure, internal, hands-on experience.

My experiences indicate that control solutions are situation specific.  But I believe there are a few constants. 
My Core Constant: If you cannot give up control properly, your business will not reach its full potential.  You cannot possibly be the best person for everything. This is WHY you give up some control.

Another constant is FEAR.  When you give up "some" control depends on your business model and the size of your operation.  But if you are profitable and working ridiculous hours or slogging through jobs better suited to others instead of shining in your true arena because you don’t trust anyone else, think they might change things, don’t want to pay for the help, etc., you are at the WHEN point or way past it.  Don’t let fear of change stop you.

HOW to give up control usually starts by assessing what you do best. Great sales people are not usually tops at logistics.  A mechanical genius may not be a human resources whiz. Input from fellow business owners and advisors increases the accuracy of your assessment.

Choose what area to back out of first. Then find the right person/team for a trial. This can be the hardest phase.  Your goal- communicate expectations clearly and require accountability, but leave enough flexibility to test your new person/team. This is a balancing act because you don’t want to stifle an amazing employee by over managing her (been there-almost), or let a bad choice create havoc (been there-almost).

Properly managing control over your business is complicated. But if you harness your need for control, build a great team, and let them do their jobs, together you’ll make your company great. Then you’ll be the best kind of control freak-reformed- at least a bit.

Cynthia L. Umphrey is a shareholder with the Troy-based law firm Kemp Klein, a co-owner of The Learning Experience of South Lyon and of SIXLUXE LLC.   She is also a member of EO Detroit.  She can be reached at 248-528-1111 or


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