The only way you can grow your business is by removing yourself from it. Your business should be able to make money without you. If your business heavily depends on you for its day-to-day activities, you shouldn’t even think about growing it or it’ll fall apart.
The fatal assumption every entrepreneur makes when starting a business
Most entrepreneurs make a fatal assumption that if they understand the technical side of business, they understand the business. This isn’t true. In fact, this assumption is the most common reason why 50% of business fail within their 4 years.
The founding story is always the same: you, a technician, get tired of working for somebody and decide to start your own business. But after one year, you realize there’s more to running a business than simply delivering technical work. While knowing technical details is your biggest assets early on, once you begin to grow it becomes your biggest liability.
When you first start a business, you’re doing one job which you know very well and a dozen others you don’t know anything about. But you learn about managing cash flow, client profitability, invoicing, hiring, delegating, and other things as you go.
The real problems begin when you start getting more clients and you have to grow your company due to extra work. But as you hire more and more people, you’ll quickly learn that no one is willing to work as hard as you do and that no one cares as much as you do. You’ll try to control the quality of work and interfere in your employees’ job, but after awhile you’ll only end up burnt out, disillusioned, and bitter.
So before you even start thinking about growing your business, you need to change how you think about business itself and then set processes in place that support growth.
Replace yourself as soon as possible
As your business grows, the work will start to exceed your ability to do technical work. As it grows, it will exceed your ability to coordinate others, check quality, and see what needs to be done. Sooner or later, the work will suffer if you try to manage everything. You will become a bottleneck that delays progress.
The only solution to grow is to remove bottleneck, which in this case means removing yourself from day-to-day operations. And to do that, you must first stop thinking like a technician (or a manager). You must start thinking like an entrepreneur.
You are not your business or the work that comes from it. If you wanted to work on technical things, you’d get a job and spared yourself from all the messy entrepreneurial responsibilities. Your business is not a place where you get to work on technical things but a place where others work. The whole purpose of starting your business in the first place was to get free of jobs so you can create jobs for others.
You can’t have a day job at your company because, while you work on day-to-day stuff, no is working on strategy and no one is taking care of making sure your business doesn’t fall apart when the amount of work doubles or triples.
Switching to the entrepreneurial mindset won’t be easy. This personal transformation will require you to get out of your comfort zone and acquire new skills, new knowledge, and new understanding. You can’t grow your business before you start thinking about yourself as an entrepreneur, a visionary whose job is not to work in your business but shape it.
You’re not responsible for the actual output; you’re responsible for designing the system that creates the output.
For example, if you’re in a business of making software, you’re not responsible for the code itself. You’re responsible for the company: the employees, managers, clients, processes, and the know-how.
You need to set up a system so one day it can run with minimum input from you. You must build a business that works not because of you but without you. And to do that, you’re going to need processes and set up a self-running business.
Other posts in the series on growing a business
- Part 1: Why entrepreneurs burn out
- Part 2: How to make sure your business can grow
- Part 3: How companies grow and die (Adizes lifecycle)
- Part 4: Setting up a self running business
- Part 5: Introducing processes
- Part 6: Staying relevant
- Part 7: Staying profitable
- Part 8: How management changes (Greiner's growth model)
- Part 9: When to hire first project manager
- Part 10: A practical approach to risk management
- Part 11: Identifying key players
- Part 12: What happens when a key player leaves
- Part 13: Leadership pipeline
- Part 14: When to hire first HR manager
- Part 15: Contractor vs full-time employee
- Part 16: Hiring process for growing businesses
- Part 17: How and where to find talented employees
- Part 17: Hiring advice for growing businesses
- Part 18: Systematic onboarding
- Part 19: Avoiding toxic workers
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