Every business owner manager has one major problem – human cloning hasn’t been invented.
‘If only I could replicate myself’ they wail, ‘I would be able to do so much more’.
But they can’t. And instead their business becomes quicksand. Vitality is sucked from their legs. Joy dissipates. Stress grows. Growth stalls.
But surely busy is good? If we didn’t have customers we wouldn’t be running round like headless chickens. We are delivering the service, chasing payments, writing emails and fixing problems. But, the big problem with all of these crucial activities? They maintain the status quo, rather than driving the business forward.
So if human cloning is out of the question, and you want to grow your business, what is the alternative?
Do yourself out of a job
When I started my first business, I very quickly realised that growth would stall if I continued to deliver services. Yet my technical skill set and expertise was the very reason that I, and countless millions of other entrepreneurs, started the business to start with.
As a result my second hire was to employ a technically skilled person who could deliver in my place. (My first was a sales person, which for a host of reasons was the wrong decision but more on that another time). By hiring the right person (thank you Dave) I could spend my time on growing the business. It was a steep learning curve.
Within a year I had over ten staff. Within three years I had over 30 staff with a number of managers, and growth continued. Could I have grown the business had I stayed in delivery? Absolutely not. Instead I continuously did myself out of a job, and challenged those I hired to do the same.
Was it easy? Not at all. Doing myself out of a job meant continually moving into the unknown. Rather than settling for safety, I took risks. Every month, every week, and every day.
The question for any manager desiring growth, is this – am I spending my time, energy and money on growing the business, or managing the status quo?
If it is the latter, your feet are caught in quicksand. It’s only a matter of time before you are paralysed or worse. Quickly ask yourself what options are open to you to free yourself to win new customers and increase market share. Then start doing it, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.
Some ideas to release growth
Here are some ideas to help you release growth;
- Outsource non essentials
Review your business – define what is core and consider outsourcing everything else. Be the best at what you do, and leave others to be the best at what they can be. Examples include keeping, accountancy, payroll, logistics, manufacturing, finishing, customer support, design, IT, HR etc.
- Stop delivering non core services.
Most new businesses are so keen to get sales they will sell anything anything to get cash in the door. This is a machine gun approach to customer acquisition. In addition, a ‘we will bend over backwards” attitude to customer demands is rarely successful. If this is you, pat yourself on the back for getting your business started, but stop it. Focus on what you do best – and pour all your resources into that alone.
- Shrink wrap your service or product.
A mature company is able to say ‘this is what we do’, as well as ‘no’. Rather than offering a highly bespoke service or product (which is fine if you are a high end high provider) which is tailored to each customer, maturing companies move to a more standard product/service set with standard pricing. This actually makes your job easier, and removes complexity – a key requirement to grow your business. For some this suggestion goes against everything you stand for – and if you are still growing you are unlikely to be listening. But for those of you who have stalled, or have reached desperation, you need to rethink your approach.
Key to ‘do yourself out of a job’ is that you apply it at every level of your business.
For every task you do, think about the next person who will be hired to do it. Document it, standardise it, price it, define it.
Do whatever you need to do to ensure that someone else can do it, no matter how much work it takes. And ensure that your staff do exactly the same.
Make ‘do yourself out of a job’ core to your values and organisational behaviours. You will be surprised at the growth this sparks.
Some of you will be thinking, “if only”. We don’t have the cash to do myself out of a job by hiring someone else. The sales pipeline does not support such a risky move. What I need to do is work harder.
If this is you, get used to the snug feeling of quicksand as it gradually claims more and more of your short human life.
But for those of you who are determined, courageous and want to grow – start thinking strategically. Force yourself away from your usual work environment. Think decisively how you can gain new customers. Work with a coach, a mentor, and speak to others outside your business to gain a better perspective. Urgently find a way to hand over as much of your status quo as possible in order to release you, your company’s greatest sales asset, to grow your business.
Focus on growth
If your next question is, but what would I do if I wasn’t in delivery? Here’s a quick exercise to help you.
Imagine that as of next week, you have one day a week free. One day, every single week. The only rule is that you must spend the whole day doing activities that will generate business growth. What would it be? Write down five ideas. Circle the biggest. Now go do it. Work out how service can be delivered without you in the process.
The truth is, new customers means more cash. More cash means more staff through which you can do yourself out of a job. Tell your staff your plan, and encourage them to do themselves out of a job too. Pah. Who needs cloning anyway? Before you know it, with courage and conviction, you can be free of that quicksand and be running into a great growth adventure.
Mark is a successful entrepreneur with a Masters in Leadership Coaching & Mentoring. He has worked with countless businesses, as well as those who manage them, and helped them grow. If you would like to speak to Mark about your business call him on +44 1332 422121.