Let’s think back to the early days of your company. You know, the time when you were flying by the seat of your pants, excitedly rushing from sales call to sales call, meeting old friends and family members around the water cooler and making a drum roll sound as you checked the bank balance at the end of the month to see whether or not it was a profitable one. Ah, the good old days. But now the business seems to have flat-lined. New clients aren’t coming as easily, the to-do pile keeps growing and you’re constantly behind on all that you’re trying to accomplish. Your business wish list is a mile long and you’re not advancing to that next level you know your business is capable of. What’s going on? (And don’t be too quick to blame the economy). One of the cruelest ironies in business might be: what got your business here is keeping you from getting there, to the next level. The behaviors and actions that got you from start-up to established business are sometimes the exact same behaviors and actions preventing you from becoming a legitimate contender to lead your product or service category in your area, your region or even the country. Let’s look at a few behaviors of old and why they may be holding you back:
Growing a business typically requires discipline and pre-thought out actions that are executed deliberately, with a specific focus and outcome. “Get more clients” is the goal of any business, but it’s also one without focus or a clearly defined result. How many clients? What kind of clients? By when? Without answers to these questions, how will you attain your goal? “Get one school account and one restaurant account by the end of December” takes that goal and gives it focus, a game plan and a timeline – all crucial for giving yourself the best chance of growing your business.
Friends & Family
While it’s comforting to know your team members are life-long friends who’ve “got your back,” it often can come at the expense of having the best and strongest talent available in that given role. High-growth and category leadership demands the best bodies in the right chairs – if the old friend currently warming that chair is not the strongest in their field, it is quite likely holding back your company and its growth.
Managing by Checkbook
Planning month-to-month, or too short term, in any business is problematic because revenue and expenses don’t always line up according to dates their supposed to. In a perfect world, invoices would be paid on time every time. In reality, clients can pay late and new vendors can be C.O.D. Being able to plan ahead financially and withstand an expected period of negative cash-flow is essential. It allows you to invest ever so slightly ahead of the curve to make the investments that will possibly propel your business to the next level – and the next level after that. Say you want to bring in a higher caliber salesperson than you’ve had, but there might be three months of negative cash-flow as they’re ramping up. In months 4-8 you’ll recoup your investment and then some, but your business needs to be able to financially withstand those first few months. Pull it off and your company will now be set on a higher trajectory that you’re managing according to a plan.
The key here is to look at your business behaviors candidly and ask yourself this: Are the traits and behaviors that made your business such a success now the exact same things holding your business back? Interestingly, it’s not a black and white assessment. You have to discern when the attribute or behavior is problematic and needs to be corrected or just simply evolved. Other times, the attribute or behavior is core to your company’s success and shouldn’t be tampered with. With some honest introspection, I think you’ll know when things need to change.