I work with a lot of larger small businesses (self-employed people). When their teams grow to larger numbers, a different kind of challenge begins to occur. It’s no longer simply about finding sales and actioning client requests.

Having more staff doesn’t necessarily mean you have a business. For the most part, bigger small businesses are really larger self-employed people.

Why is this distinction important?

The challenges are different depending on how you’re operating your business and where you’re operating from. Even the rules about how you operate as a self-employed person, as opposed to a business owner, are different. Moreover, the rules that make a self-employed person successful will actually ruin your chances of success as a business owner. This is the reason most businesses have less than eight employees and can’t sustain growth over a certain threshold. The phenomenon has very little to do with the marketplace. In fact, I’d argue that I’ve seen very average businesses succeed in tough climates and markets. The phenomenon has everything to do with your relationship with the business and a ceiling of complexity that creeps in as your resources start to reach capacity.

The answer has a lot to do with utilizing your resources in such a way that sustained growth is a natural consequence. Most people have no idea about this. I’ll start to shed some light on the problem in this blog.

Self-employed versus a business owner

The 1 to 3 man band typically needs customers, sales and systems; mostly around production. Most can succeed based on strong technical competence.

When the number of full-time employees gets up above the 10 to 12 mark, all sorts of fun and games begin. Sales can roller coast up and down and production/delivery standards can become compromised. People break off into factions and the game plan somehow gets left behind in a whirlwind of confusion.

Most people I work with say they are looking for some reprieve, or reduction in the reliance their business has on them. This will provide them with the much-needed freedom to work on the important stuff to take the business forward. Only thing is, they never get round to the working on it. And if they did – they wouldn’t know where to start.

The problem is that they’ve inadvertently wired themselves into the process. This is based on a need to remain in control (an SE self-employed elemental). Also a lack of understanding about how to untangle the fishing line they’ve become caught up in. They then need to replace themselves with systems and have the right people running them.

Barriers to progress

Typically the two issues surrounding lack of ability to progress are:

1. Lack of focused time working on important things (prioritizing and planning)

2. Lack of profitable sales (this has all sorts of contributing factors)

Both of these are the result of how you’re operating. They can be resolved with a bit of time and effort.

How do I create the time?

That’s part of the conundrum that got you trapped there in the first place.

You build systems that carry the business. However, these are not the typical systems that you think automate processes. These are business carrying systems, like live strategic plans that include implementation, agreed protocols for increasing time efficiency (team KPIs around business drivers) etc.

Technicians/owners of small businesses largely operate from a Do It Yourself paradigm. They generally haven’t received adequate training.  Sometimes they lack understanding of how to leverage their time as effectively as they could.

This lack of awareness about the broad spectrum of processes available to them leaves them without tools at critical times in their evolution. These might include lead generation systems, sales conversion processes, marketing that works, a planning and team engagement focus.

Traditional industries are slow to accept changes in the marketplace. It will become increasingly difficult to maintain top line sales without embracing new ways of running these businesses.

People hours are essentially what it all boils down to. If you are not effectively leveraging time, your business will starve of the margin required to breathe life into your future direction.

Leveraging your time also includes increasing background engagement from existing customers – then new customers – and not the other way around. Systems to do just that are important aspects to consider when assessing growth plans.

My approach

I come from a strong sales background. As a consequence, my clients get a sales focus and I make no apologies for it. I’m supposed to be a good listener, but when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Consequently, I encourage growth and a mindset that builds robustness and sustainability.

Sales is a process, not an event. Any process can be systemised and create predictable, reliable outcomes.

Growth is not the goal, profit is and a future that doesn’t rely too heavily on one or two people.

 

By Garth Pickett