(This was piece was first on Techspark.co on 6th July 2017)
So you’re looking to scale up your business. This is a challenge for all companies and for many leaders it’s a befuddling experience. I’ve spoken to and helped those running companies with just two or three employees (in some cases it’s better to call them volunteers) as well as those who are trying to get their heads around the same issues but multiplied, where they’re dealing with several hundred people to thousands.
Within the massive web of questions, there are in my experience two major areas that tend to be the biggest headaches for leaders scaling up their business. The first is people, the second is systems. The two are often confused with each other and the first is fudged in favour of the second, because it can be seen as more tangible (but it isn’t because systems depend on people).
In my experience there’s one significant area that almost all leaders and entrepreneurs overlook in this, which is critical to the successful growth of the organisation.
It’s you, the founder or leader.
Now, I don’t mean this in a limited old-fashioned individualistic way. The business isn’t you, it isn’t dependent upon you, nor should it be. And this is the crux of it. For your baby to grow, to enable it to find its feet, you have to hand it over to others for its development.
These other people are going to come in to your company and their presence is going to change the quality of your business and how it functions. They’re not going to be as wedded to its idea and construct as you are. They’re probably not going to care very much about it as a living organism as you are. Many of them are simply going to view it as a job without the heartfelt investment in its future and success as perhaps you feel. Many of them won’t understand, or want to engage in your dreams and desire for your creation or your purpose in scaling up your company.
Getting the people right
The people you bring on board will think differently and they will behave differently to you and to be frank there are a lot of people that will not be able to think in the same way you do – neither do you want them to.
If you’re bringing in investment, or arranging a partnership, this difference may be even more stark because of their underlying interests.
All these people are, nonetheless, as important, if not more so to your business than you are.
So, you’re going to have to reach out into the world to find people who can relieve you of tasks you can’t possibly manage to do all on your own and you’re going to have to accept that they’ll be different from you.
When you seek these people, you may be tempted to do a bit of Googling to find some advice on who you should get in and how. Beware the propagation of tripe.
There’s a rising narrative about the ‘type’ you’ll want to get on board. Some call these people ‘A players’ who have the personality and drive to go places and benefit your business accordingly. How you go about finding these people, assessing their true capability and fit with your company, and actually whether you really need them is another matter.
The first step is really to do a bit of soul searching and self-assessment of you in relation to your business. This is number two on the list of overlooked. If you’re going to do this properly, get somebody to help you because you cannot do a full and honest self-assessment of yourself, and act upon it, on your own.
No quick solution
The next step is to understand that this is an ongoing process, not an event or series of events. As your business grows, it will, and should, change its nature on a daily basis. If you’re employing people, the human aspect is now going to be at the forefront of your mind forever – it is ceaseless but it’s just as much of an issue to global companies.
None of this should be seen as a negative. It can actually be very liberating for you, because hopefully it will give you a little more freedom.
A simple illustration:
Lets say you accept that whilst you might be a hot app developer with the creative skills to build a great, marketable solution that’s going make peoples’ lives so much better, you have a terrible telephone manner. So you determine that your priority for growth is someone to answer the phone to speak to your customers.
In this instance, it’s questionable that you’re going to need an “A-player.” In fact, that could be a mistake. At this point in time, you need someone who genuinely enjoys being on the phone and who is good at phone-based relationships. He could be a great receptionist who loves this kind of thing. And that is great for you and your company for now and it’s mutually beneficial.
The potential hiccup is you and how you engage with your existing customers about the changing nature of your relationships with them. They may feel disenfranchised because they’re no longer talking to the boss and thus their status has been downgraded in the client hierarchy. Their experience on the phone is better, but they want to speak to the boss because that gives them a certain satisfaction in the relationship. So this may need some tender care from your side.
You may also find yourself succumbing to this immediate pressure because your major concern is the monthly revenue and you’re afraid that you’ll lose clients. So you start taking the calls again and suddenly you’re worse off than in square one.
There are always ramifications to what are intended to be simple changes to the business and as your business grows, you’ll find they are almost always, fundamentally, down to relationships.
Understanding your strengths
A real world example is an entrepreneur client I have been working with who, when we started, was struggling to make ends meet. His monthly revenue target was a real stretch and stress for him. Our work has been on him understanding where his strengths lie in the business. These are in his personality which is enabling strong brand development. However, he is disorganised and when he gets into the back-office stuff he withers, so does the business drive and direction. We’ve also dealt with how and what he focusses on in order for him to personally add more value and secure longer term growth.
Since we started working together less than 10 months ago, he has managed to increase his average monthly revenue about 4 fold. Recently he wanted some time with me to get some clarity about some management approaches where he had brought someone new in who was good at management, organisation and systems. He was talking to me about how he needed to sit down with her to plan out and create the necessary organisation and systems they needed.
I asked him about her background and strengths and did she have the capability to pick up with it and run independently? If yes, why not just trust in her different abilities? Let her do her thing in her way (with communication and appropriate oversight of course). Then she can explain and share the systems with him and the others in the company so it’s not just all in her head.
The relief he felt following this conversation was palpable. He was released to carry on with what he is best at – developing the long term relationships for his business while getting out there to build the brand.
So whilst I’ve simplified this example conversation, it’s fundamentally down to a relationship and founder/leader giving others the freedom to change and develop the nature of his business. This adds value that he could never provide himself.