Ah, it must be People then…? No
My product or services? (grasping at straws now) …No
It is one of those questions you get asked, and answer with trepidation as it depends on the context.
The answer is the same for any business, regardless of sector, size, region, product, or service.
The answer is LEADERSHIP…
A leader will address any issue of business by either directly understanding it and creating a plan to fix it, measuring the outcomes, and amending the plan OR putting someone in place who can do it.
Going back to the beginning, if there is no cash, the leader finds out what the cause is and fixes it or empowers the fix. If the sales are low, the leader identifies the route cause and puts into place a series of fixes or enables someone to do it. If there are not enough leads, the leader identifies why and looks for solutions to the problem. If the team is not gelling, the leader will find a way to engage with the team and ‘remove’ any blockages, and if the product or service has lots of issues, the leader will identify them and create an environment for improvement.
The challenge that I hear a lot though is:
“Yes, I get this. But what if it is a little of EVERYTHING?”
Ah, now the leader has to work out the most important one and find the right solution or expertise to fix that first. Welcome to Challenge One.
For the last ten years, I have been trying to understand why less than four percent of businesses ever get to beyond nine staff and upwards of mid-six figures. Surely out of the nearly six million companies in the UK, there must be a reason why the odds are stacked against you getting past this business moat. This is Challenge Two.
The reasons become more evident when you put the two challenges together in a new question:
“Will the leadership required to get your business from proof of concept through survival be the same leadership to get a business into a success and beyond?”
The answer is a resounding NO.
It is crucial to understand this if you have aspirations of a seven-figure business that can sustain, grow, and scale (without the constant distress and struggle).
What got you to where you are now is the same thing that will stop you from going further. Please read that again as once you get this, the drawbridge starts to lower.
Below a handful of staff, as the founder and leader of our business, we can pretty much juggle everything and generally keep the balls up in the air.
BUT then that time comes when the amount of balls we can juggle becomes too much, so we add more staff.
To keep them in the air, we have to do more and more while adding more and more balls until something gives, which is when you – the juggler – reach your limit (different for each person), and the balls start dropping everywhere.
Guess what? It is between six to nine staff (excluding you). The elusive four percent.
The natural reaction is to retreat and look to start again, but with the painful mindset that this is hard and I don’t want to go through it, so you don’t, but stay at that ninety-six percent of ALL business and business owners; frustrated, overwhelmed and on the hamster wheel with no sign of a way out.
It is the same situation as the fable of the frog in a pan of water. If the frog is in the pan when the water is slowly heated up to boiling point, it will get used to the gradual rise in heat and eventually boil to death. But if the frog jumped into the pan when it was boiling, it will immediately jump out to save itself.
Well, is this you? Are you that frog? I suggest you test the water and see.
OK, so now you get that, we need to get out of this business pan before we boil, but it’s not that easy as everybody is working hard, especially you, and you’ve tried everything but its Groundhog Day.
So, here is a new paradigm.
Firstly, let’s agree on what needs to happen first.
We need to give some of the balls to other people to juggle and let them get on with it, so this releases us to focus on asking some key questions. In essence, the key to breaking through the next level is autonomy; we need people in the business that takes on the responsibility to deliver on their areas of responsibility.
My firm belief is
IF THE BUSINESS OWNER HAS A FUNCTIONAL ROLE, THE BUSINESS WILL SUFFER…
The reason is simple: as and when a crisis happens (and they do) the focus of the business owner will shift to that crisis and the area they were looking after will suffer; be it the delivery of the product or service, or what I call the business flywheel which is marketing, sales or delivery.
Now we know what needs to happen, we need to work out how which is very counterintuitive and for some of you will be:
What you need to do is SLOW DOWN!
“What the BEEP is he talking about?”
Try this for an idea. Look to go back to break even (including your drawings) as this will give you the time to set the business up correctly, ready for scale.
A business running at full speed will never get the time to put in place the things that are needed to get them to the next levels like its purpose, vision, mission, strategy, values, structure, roles, responsibilities, dashboards, processes, systems, manuals, performance plans. BTW, how’s the water? Boiling yet?
So, we turn up and do whatever it takes to keep the doors open and everybody happy, but ourselves.
We cannot be the leader in the boiling water of business; we have to jump out before it’s too late.
I call this: ‘money now,’ ‘money future,’ and it’s how I split my time. I will do what is required to deliver the money now and spend the rest of my time on ‘money future.’
During the lockdown, like many businesses, we had casualties but decided instead of replacing them with new clients, we decided to use that extra time on ‘money future’ NOT ‘money now ‘to launch a new business model.
Or I could have kept focusing on ‘money now,’ find new clients, and not set ourselves up for the future.
As I said at the beginning, the only challenge in business is the Leadership