Let’s discuss why business owners fail at scaling their business and review ways to solve that problem. It’s a bit cliché to say that entrepreneurs fail far more than they succeed. Most people have heard the stories or seen a friend try over and over again, some of you have probably even experienced it yourself (I know I have).
Over the next few months, I’ll be writing articles about the in’s and out’s of entrepreneurship, including what it takes to get your idea started and how to succeed at it. But before I get started on those articles, I wanted to provide something in which my readers can relate. So this series, broken into parts, is about one specific topic: Why Business Owners Fail At Scaling Their Business.
Reasons why entrepreneurs fail to scale.
Over the last three years, I’ve worked with over 300 different entrepreneurs, in different industries, and at different stages of building their businesses. If we go back further, that number grows and even includes my business ventures that I’ve either succeed or fail at, usually with great triumph.
With this so-called “experience” I have seen four characteristics that work extremely well for leaders of small companies and start-ups, but have a huge impact on the business owner when they need to manage larger teams with diverse needs and departments.
I’m going to go through each one in more detail, but here’s the cliff notes:
The first characteristic is loyalty.
Let me explain: in the beginning stages of a startup, the business owner works closely with a small “unit” of colleagues. It’s a close group of special people wearing many different hats. When you start a business, you are usually sacrificing everything you can for the betterment of this group and you lead this unit like a combat unit behind enemy lines where it’s one for all and all for one. I’m a strong believer in this method.
The thing is, this can often turn into blind loyalty, and that’s when it becomes dangerous. It can quickly become a liability in managing a large, complex, organization if you aren’t careful.
The second characteristic is task organization, or focusing on the job at hand. It is critical in driving toward a goal, like a product launch or revenue metric. However, excessive attention to detail can cause a larger organization to lose sight of other tasks that are equally important.
The third characteristic is single-mindedness. It’s an important attribute to a visionary with a revolutionary idea, but this quality often turns into tunnel vision if the entrepreneur cannot move on as the company grows.
The last characteristic that I see often, which I constantly struggle with myself, is the tendency to work alone. It’s very hard for entrepreneurs to get out of their head and verbalize things. Sometimes it’s the extremely high standards and the “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mentality that makes business owners work long hours in isolation.
Now in defense of working alone, it may be needed in the early stages of business because processes are not fully developed and there is a lot of trial and error. However, this can quickly become the Achille’s heel for a business owner that wants to scale their business.
Entrepreneurs that have successfully scaled their business, don’t do it by white knuckling the business model into shape all by themselves. They have overcome these four characteristics by constant reminders and strict discipline, listening and learning from others, and being able to see perspectives other their own. They have put together an amazing team and appreciate diversity. They do not shy away from people that are different from them in some form or fashion (race, religion, political views, personalities, etc). They make “the company” and it’s employees their top concern. They are direct, they cut out the bullshit and deal with problems quickly.
I’ve also noticed another commonality of these people, though it took me much longer to find it because it’s often hidden behind the scenes. They will make every effort, including sacrificing their comfort, to do what doesn’t come naturally to them.
For example, an extreme introvert who is running a business, may sacrifice their comfort and become an extreme extrovert to make new connections and network. They will take a giant leap outside of their comfort zone to get out there and make more sales.
Now there are a few other pitfalls that I want to discuss, but they will be in Part 2.
Pitfalls that Entrepreneurs Must Overcome
Trying to D-I-Y
Most business owners want to do it all by themselves.
The reason why this is so dangerous is that your efforts are limited. There is only so much time in the day and you can only produce so much that amount of time. If you truly want to be successful, you must hire someone else that can extend your efforts. If you don’t, your income will always be restricted based on your time, your energy and your resources.
You can always find someone who can do what you can, and sometimes, you can find someone who can do it better than you. The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you will break through your current ceiling and get to the next level.
No Systematic Documentation
This is a huge mistake that most entrepreneurs make.
You must document your processes in a systematic way that others can replicate. Documenting your system will make it much easier for you to recruit, train, manage and retain talent. Once this is done, it becomes much easier to recruit because the new team member can quickly learn what they need to do.
You’re able to train them easily with little effort, and you’re able to manage them better because they understand what the expectations are. It’s all in black and white making it much easier to retain them because the expectations have already been set and managed.
Not Focusing On Your Best Skills
Stop doing the stuff that drains you of your energy and creativity. Most importantly, stop doing stuff that you suck at. Double down on your strengths and find others who can compensate for your weaknesses.
I have a tip to help with this, whatever you find yourself procrastinate the most on, that is a clear sign you should outsource or delegate it.
Being a Control-Freak
Most businesses owners are so caught up in doing everything on their own when it comes to expanding their team; they struggle to let go and trust others to get the job done. Don’t become so consumed with having control of everything in the business that you become stuck doing low-value tasks that can be done by somebody else. Be careful not to become a micromanager which can lead to high turnover rates.
Instead, work to identify low-value tasks and systemize them to produce predictable results that can be delegated or automated. This will free up your time so you can have a life and the only thing you’ll need to focus on is scaling your business.
Lack of a Review Process
Finally, one of the critical factors of why businesses aren’t growing, or don’t grow predictably, is because of a lack of a reviewing system.
You must inspect what you expect.
Now when you have systems and processes in place what happens is some people become complacent and they don’t review their systems. They don’t optimize it and you can actually find that productivity goes down because of this. However, if you continuously review your systems and your processes not only will your productivity continue to grow but you’ll actually start finding more time and more freedom to have a life outside of work.