You start a company, fight like hell, and it grows to $5 or $10 million in sales. It was hard, but you knew how to make it happen.
Suddenly, other people are doing the stuff you used to do. Someone else is selling, or should be. Someone else is developing new products, or should be. You keep telling your employees what they should be doing, but it isn’t happening. You’re tempted to think everyone else is stupid, or lazy.
This is the trap that stops many entrepreneurs in their tracks. Most never get past it.
How do you scale – you?
You know how to sell, service, grow. Now it’s time to build a system – a company – that does this as good or better than you did it when you could do everything yourself. This means building systems that do this day after day. Even when you are out of the office. Or on vacation.
Instead of calling employees into your office, telling them what to do, and sending them away with a pep talk… you need to figure out ongoing systems that accomplish all the key tasks in your business. Then, you have to monitor these systems, week after week, and month after month.
Instead of having 42 emergency conversations each day, you need to have a set of weekly meetings and reports that enable you to monitor what’s really important to the success of your business, and that also focuses your managers and employees on the same critical tasks.
This is not what made you successful
Entrepreneurs have energy, imagination, drive. They aren’t sit-in-meetings type of people. Many resist the idea of building systems, of scheduling regular meetings. Most will never invent and implement such practices on their own. Even when handed a system, on their own they can’t implement it. They’ll be inconsistent, and often look for excuses to cancel a meeting… or simply forget to have them.
But with outside guidance, it’s not that hard to develop new habits, especially when you experience the type of encouraging results that may have eluded you recently. You need to develop habits that don’t come to you naturally, and you need to instill these habits in all your employees.
Which brings us to a sensitive issue. You need to build a management team that lives by these sort of habits and systems. Without the right people, even the best systems are useless.
In their first few years, many entrepreneurs hire relatively junior employees. The business isn’t that big, there aren’t many revenues coming in, and the entrepreneur is doing all the heavy lifting. You look up two years later and you are surrounded by 20, 30 or more junior employees. Everyone still looks to you for guidance. No one else can organize or manage.
This, too, is one place in which many entrepreneurs get trapped. They never hire people who are better than them. They never are willing to pay for real talent. They never build a talented management team.
What follows for many entrepreneurs, is stagnation. They’re wandering in the desert with a ragtag band of people. They keep stumbling from one idea to another, trying but failing to repeat past successes. They never even get close to developing an effective strategy, because they lack the discipline and supporting talent to execute a long-term strategy.
What does success look like?
A $50 million company is a collection of reliable and predictable systems. These systems join people, processes and products together to create something of value not just for customers, but also for the firm’s owners.
Such systems don’t suck the energy out of an entrepreneurial company. To the contrary, when they are designed around an entrepreneur’s “win” – what he or she really wants – they magnify the entrepreneur’s energy. It grows exponentially. People you didn’t even know three months ago are bringing in multi-million dollar deals for your company. New products are popping up seemingly out of nowhere, when in fact they are the predictable outcome of a vital system within your company.
Growing up is hard when you aren’t willing to change. But when you acknowledge that higher sales require a higher level of management and structure, growth once again becomes the natural outcome of your hard work and energy.