Not everyone has the determination and stamina to grow their company. It’s not for quitters or the faint of heart.
Maybe this describes your life today:
I know many owners who have reached overwhelm or burnout – they actually dread adding another customer or employee.
It feels like they are just adding more weight to heavy anchor they are pulling uphill, and dragging some of their team with them.
To make matters worse, increased sales cause cash flow issues and profits aren’t rising as fast.
They work long hours, and sometimes they wonder if the journey is worth the effort.
When I was VP in my family business, my Mom and I felt the same way, and we had all 4 of these growing pains:
STRATEGY: Lack of Strategy to grow sustainable sales
PEOPLE: Not having the right people in the right roles who are accountable for results
EXECUTION: Processes and communication strain or break down
CASH flow issues
If this sounds like you, then I want to share with you the “Scaling Up” process described in the best-selling book by Verne Harnish, and used by thousands of companies to grow faster, more profitably, with less drama.
If you want to “grow” your business 20% or more in the next year… what is your plan to make it happen?
Do you have an achievable sales plan? Great!
What about a People Plan to handle the additional work and keep your customers happy?
Are you planning any changes to your process or technology to be more efficient?
Do you have a plan to handle the increased cash needs that always come with growth?
Most companies focus on the sales side of growth and just let the People and Operations side just figure itself out… this approach causes the “growing pains.”
You might be surprised to know that I speak to business owners every month who want to grow 20% next year, but they don’t have a plan to get the sales and/or handle the extra work.
“More companies die from indigestion than starvation.” – Dave Packard, Hewlett Packard
According to the book “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish, these are 4 warning signs that you aren’t ready for more sales:
Your profits are at or below the industry average [or you don’t know what that is]
Processes are not running smoothly now
There is drama on the team or from customers from missed deadlines, increasing mistakes, lack of resources, and “communication” issues
People are working overtime to fix problems
At the very time when the focus becomes more important, your key people start being “too busy” putting out fires to work “on” the business.
Maybe you are doing this too…
Getting dragged into daily work instead of setting aside time to evaluate, plan and work on the key projects that will improve the business.
A few real-life examples:
I spoke with three business owners this week who are living this right now.
One almost doubled the revenue but the profits plummeted.
another doesn’t have the hourly staff in place to handle several new clients so she is filling in and training $12 an hour staff.
A third added more customers but one technician team “burned out” and quit… now he is back in the field and everyone is working 50+ hours handling the overload, and revenues are down 20% and profits are zero. Ouch!
What is the solution?
Build the 4 Foundations to Scale Up– Strategy 6 People + Execution + Cash– all TOGETHER.
Changes to one of these four impacts the other 3– so you need to look at the “whole picture” of your business.
[from “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish- graphic from book summary by Readingraphics]
You, small business manager, want to improve things.
I will bet dollars to Freddy’s Famous Buffalo donuts that you have a “wish list” of projects you want to implement, and you have started some of them.
Yet your office (and mine) is littered with books unread, binders from great workshops, possibly brochures or saved emails with a system or process that sounds great. One you want to investigate that just might make your business operate more smoothly or more profitably.
Hey, we are idea people and we are starters (maybe not finishers).
When you do start something new with anticipation, this most likely happens (image from Todd Herman):
One of the most persistent complaints I hear from employees of small business is that “we don’t finish what we start” and that the owners/ managers are always adopting the latest book advice or stuck in chasing shiny objects syndrome.
Making changes, finishing a project or new process, and getting everyone on board and sticking with it is HARD.
You have to be patient and persistent to make progress, and to stay positive with all the set backs and challenges you encounter.
Four things you can do to start and finish your projects:
Do ONLY ONE at time (more about this next week)
Enlist the help of your team– don’t do it all yourself
Create an action plan with weekly action items and assign tasks to specific people with a deadline
Meet weekly (same time) to review what is complete, what needs to be discussed/ decided, and what is next
As a bonus– get an “Accountability Buddy” outside of your team/ company (a colleague or a consultant) who will hold you accountable to make progress, keep you motivated, and help you work through the inevitable bumps on the road.
Maybe even decide the reward you will give the team to celebrate– such as a “pizza party” or outing or something nice for the office (plants? Fooze ball table?). This can keep you motivated as you slog through the tough parts and keep you sprinting toward the finish line.
Most employees (and also most managers) are naturally focused on getting their “day job” done. Their cognitive “time span” and time management skills are typically focused on the next day or next week.
This is a major reason that all your good ideas and wish list of projects for improvement never get very far, much less implemented.
The concept of an Individual Action Plan has personally been an incredible organizing and planning tool for my entire life, and changed the direction of our family business.
When I was in high school, our family business started using a business consultant, who taught every one of our 25 employees how to create and use a personal action plan.
My mother had 3 retail stores, two production facilities and a business services division with hundreds of accounts.
When every person had an action plan and they had “quarterly action plan meetings” they were able to focus on the daily work AND make progress on those pesky projects. It also made it easy to see how everyone was contributing and working together on business building activities.
It made the difference between chaos and progress, and transitioned us from overwhelm to a professionally managed profitable business.
There are two inter-related purposes for action plans-– the first is to monitor and prioritize activities that support major projects or programs. The second is to use action plans as a training and development tool. I say inter-related because when people contribute to projects this contributes to their skill and competency development.
Your employees want and need ongoing reminders and assistance with taking action on bigger projects, so that they make progress and focus on small steps every week.
When they have a written action plan, and they review in your weekly coaching conversations, this helps them stay on track. If you don’t review and hold them accountable to make progress, anything beyond daily urgent work gets forgotten.
Quarterly Action Plans Overview:
Ideally you need to do a bit of design and discovery to begin the action plan process.
First you need to compile a full list of all active company-wide projects and create an action plan for each, with sections or tasks assigned to the responsible person. [More than 4 projects— prune the list down.]
Second, you should meet with everyone individually to discuss their desired training and development direction [part of your annual performance conversation.]
Both of these topics become action steps on an individual quarterly action plan.
What goes on an action plan?
Specific training for the quarter- aligned with personal interest and business need
Stretch assignments– areas where this person can enrich or enlarge their job duties beyond the current role
Delegation items to take over responsibility from peer or manager
Action items or steps from company-wide or department projects assigned to this person
Cross-training to “back up” or shadow someone
Research opportunities– what problem can they investigate possible solutions?
Outside/ formal training programs or workshops, such as industry certification or a job-related degree
Action plans also need to list specific action items, aligned with a broader goal, who is responsible, and a target date for completion.
They are an integral part of aligning every team member’s work with the business goals, and to leverage the rhythm of weekly coaching with progress on business-improvement projects.
As an added bonus, you will be building trust and the engagement of your team by focusing on the key drivers of retention. With the right topics and agenda, the quarterly action plan meetings become “stay interviews”– a technique that employers are finding valuable to hold onto their high performers.