Your business can't grow without a few growing pains along the way

“No one told me how much time and effort went into going from 2 people to 6 people, and all the systems and processes that needed to be developed…”

I met with a business owner whose business has been growing by leaps and bounds. Her business grew from herself plus two people to now having a team of six with an operations manager keeping the team going and the owner focused on sales. Now instead of being able to see what was going on with everyone and each client, she has to rely on other people to update her. Her inbox was overflowing and she was very anxious about what the team members were doing — was it up to snuff?

ouchIn order to grow her business from three people to six people, she felt like she was reinventing almost every core process in her business. Everything that worked before just wasn’t scaling to six people. Going from 10 clients to 25 clients wreaked havoc on her processes.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few things to consider:

  • You don’t scale.
    As business grows, you have to get out of the production process. You can’t be the one responsible for ideas, quality control, approval or project management. If you are the only one who can do those things, then as the business grows these things take up more and more of your time — until they get to 150% of your time and the system breaks.
  • You can’t fix anything yourself.
    When you discover things that are broken, or that aren’t up to the quality level that you expect, the easiest thing to do is just to fix them. You see a typo on a blog post, you log in and correct it. You are reviewing a proposal and the pricing isn’t right, so you fix it. Before you know it, your job is to be everyone’s proofreader or editor. You can mark things up and have someone else fix it, or you can send it back to whomever created it with a note that says “Is this your best work?” — but you shouldn’t fix it.
  • You must always be training.
    In fact, almost everything you do is better if you take someone with you — or show someone else how to do it (while you are doing it). Think about your day — where are there places that you can include a team member in what you are doing so that they could learn about how you do it — and even take over finishing it once you start it together? You aren’t a lone wolf anymore; include the pack.
  • You have to keep moving forward.
    It can be tempting to go back to doing what you are good at because that brings you comfort. But the way out is through. Going back or slowing down just means that you are going to be in this uncomfortable place for longer — you don’t want that do you? March forward, run forward, get to the other side as fast as you can. The longer you linger, the less money you’ll make!

Growing your business isn’t a straight line; it’s not like climbing a hill where with each step you make steady progress. It’s more like leaping from rock to rock across a stream. You leap onto a new rock, then you gather some strength there, then leap to the next. Don’t hesitate, make the leap.

Comments

  1. Great post Brad. I am happy to confess I probably inspired this. And yes, there’s a huge difference between having a 2 people business and a 9 people business, where we’re at now. Luckily, as you said, I kept moving forward, aggressively made changes to how I worked because yes, individuals don’t scale. And I am sure if we grow to need 20 employees it will change again, but now I know and we are ready to tackle the growth in a healthy way. You’ve been a huge supporter along the path, and always had the best advice. I wish to all who are growing businesses to ask and take all the advice and help they can. And be ready to pay for it, but it will be the best money you ever spent. Going from 1 to 10, from 10 to 100, can’t be done alone.

    • Mana,

      Our conversation was the trigger, but only because I had this conversation so many times before.

      Your point is apt, it’s so much easier to see what is happening, and what needs to be done when standing on the outside. That’s why help is so valuable.

  2. Letting go of the tasks for someone else (i.e. delegation) is the biggest issues most business owners face when business is growing. Most entrepreneurs and small business owners have started on their own taking care of pretty much everything, however as business grows they have to learn to delegate and focus on more important, strategic things. Only those who can make this transition successfully will be able to move up.

    • Harry,

      You are right — it’s a challenging transition — but a pivotal one!

      I find that it helps to be really specific about what you are delegating — what you want done, deadlines for compassion, when folks should check in… All those details help make the delegation that much more successful.

      Thanks for your comment!

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