Most small business owners wear many hats—service provider, marketer, salesperson, accountant, customer service, and for your team – trainer, project manager and coach.
But the more the business depends on you, the more you are limiting it’s potential .. you can’t do it all well.
In fact, only 8% of businesses grow to over $5 million in revenue.. something happens to most firms and they plateau around the $1-2 million mark.
Actually, not just one thing…
There are 7 main roadblocks to achieving your business potential— a lack of systems in 7 key areas.
- If your firm lacks these 7 systems, it creates a bottleneck that flattens sales, prevents great customer experiences, and reduces profits.
- Once you get the key elements right, you can grow smoothly and consistently, with a business on “auto-pilot.”
Remember Steven Covey’s habit “Begin with the end in mind”?
There are four main plans to guide your activities and decisions to create the business you desire:
Strategic plan: It is crucial to provide a roadmap to guide your major decisions.
Budget: An annual budget is a planning document, report card, and decision tool.
People Plan: This plan outlines your current and future people roles— and forecasts what additions and changes to roles are needed to support sales growth and new business lines.
It also outlines individual’s work with organization goals (see People and Process below).
Owners plan: Owners, just like every team member, should be in a role that maximizes their strengths. Many owners continue to be the CEO- the Center of Everything Officer. This creates a huge roadblock for growing the business as the owner becomes overworked and overwhelmed.
An owner’s plan considers their current and future desired involvement, and outlines a plan to transition responsibilities to key people over time.
2. Sales plan
Most businesses have a reactive approach to sales—they do a bit of advertising or hire a sales person and then respond to the leads that come in.
Often the owner is heavily involved in all or part of this process. It is typical for a busy owner to be slow to respond to inquiries and provide proposals, and leads can be lost quickly without a tracking system.
There are several roadblocks in such an informal process.
Not only are you losing new sales that you already proposed, but you are also not pursuing qualified ideal prospects to have a consistent flow of new sales opportunities. A third sales area often overlooked is repeat business from current or prior customers—most organizations don’t have a solid process to keep in touch and offer additional services.
If you want to find, attract and cultivate leads into new and repeat customers, the solution is to have a consistent optimized sales process plan that is semi-automated.
Define your process
We all have our own way of doing things.
While that is just fine in our personal lives, a business needs to ensure consistency and quality of the product and service we deliver to our customer.
This roadblock is the lack of three little letters: SOP—Standard Operating Procedures.
Maybe you consider this super-boring, but this is the foundation of growing and scaling your business with few fires and chaos, not more. If you throw gasoline (more sales) on a fire (inconsistent work) you have an explosion.
If you want to grow smoothly, you need SOP’s.
SOP: Two key elements to a streamlined and consistent process are 1) to identify key tasks and results in standard operating procedures – SOP, 2) continually refine those SOP and implement projects to improve your process and delight your customer.
Employee involvement: To best way to process improvement ideas is to actively involve your employees in the process—they are closest to the customer and are more likely to see ways to do things faster, better, and cheaper.
Business success is about delivering an exceptional customer experience– and systems allow you to do this easily as you grow.
Your standard operating procedures are enhanced further by creating job responsibility profiles with key performance indicators (KPI) for each employee.
When everyone is clear about their responsibility, how it supports business goals, and how they will be measured, they perform better and are more engaged with their work.
One optimal practice is to create a firm-wide dashboard of key metrics, and then “cascade” the goals and metrics to the specific people responsible. These “report cards” show when company and individual results are on target, allow for quick adjustment in areas that need attention, and ensure focus on the main items to achieve this year’s goals.
Fabulous Team A Players
Even with perfectly optimized systems and all the pretty dashboards with your key metrics, you won’t grow with a fabulous team of People, who work together to achieve business goals.
A Players: There is a simple measure to know if you have this—do you have 100% “A-players” in every role?
Virtual bench: When you have qualified candidates on a “virtual bench” (ready to hire as business grows), this allows you to plug in the team you need when you need it, rather than overwhelming your staff and disappointing customers as you reactively scramble to find more teammates.
What is your ikigai?
As the owner, you are both the key to your success AND your biggest roadblock.
If you want your business to run without your daily involvement, you need to:
- Build a trusted management team to optimize the business
- Delegate to handle the daily operations (no meddling)
- Hold them accountable via the goals and dashboards tied to strategy
- Focus your efforts on your genius—what you love to do, what provides the greatest long term value for the business
A lack of profits is a huge roadblock to your business success. Low cash flow causes you to make decisions out of scarcity— cheaper labor, old broken equipment, taking on low margin jobs, not investing in process improvement, and working yourself harder.
When you have the Right Plan, Process and People, the Profits start flowing (I call this the 5 P’s model).
This upward spiral of success finally provides you the security, freedom and funds to step out of the daily “running” of the business, and let you focus on your ideal role and ideal week (and ideal life).
Download the Guide and discover Which Roadblocks are Limiting Your Small Business.
Article by Diana Southall
About the author: Diana Southall is the creator of the People Plan. She helps owners who want to grow their small business but are too personally involved, and who want to learn how to “run a business” and build a trusted team to handle the day to day.
Most small business owners want two things from their business- a reasonable Profit for all their hard work, and the freedom to enjoy their Personal life (both in the business and outside it).
However, they often neglect the 3 other P’s that will create the Profit and Personal life they want.
To explain this concept, I created a formula:
Plan + Process + People = Profits —> your Personal life
You need to have all 3 P’s in this order:
- Planning— What are the Right Things? [the What]
- Process— What does Done Right look like? [the How]
- People — Do we have the Right People? [the Who]
Without Planning, people don’t know how what they do impacts your goals, so they are busy but not focused.
Without effective Process, you will have wasted effort, headaches and won’t deliver on your promises to customers.
Without the right People, you will be busy dealing with fires and drama, and trapped in daily effort to “manage” your people and customers.
—> You feel overworked, overwhelmed by your wish list of business improvement projects, and you feel guilty working long days instead of spending time with your friends and family.
Once you put the 3 P’s in place at your organization, you can transform into an organization with:
A Plan: when your staff know the “plan” and understand how they impact organizational goals, they work together as a purpose-driven team to improve and grow the business by delighting your customers.
Clear Process: when activities are standardized, clear roles and responsibilities are outlined, and key results are tracked to make informed decisions, this provides “autopilot” systems to run smoothly and scale easily.
Right People: when you have managers who build and coach a team of A-Players, you trust them to run the business and make decisions as you would.
This leads to your ultimate goal as a business owner:
- The level of Profit (financial security) you desire, and
- The Personal work-life balance you want … the freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it.
Discover Which Plan, People and Process elements are Roadblocks in Your Small Business
Take our 3 minute quiz to find out how your firm compares to high-growth and high-profit firms.
Article by Diana Southall
About the author: Diana Southall is the creator of the People Plan. She helps companies that are missing out on opportunities because the owner is personally involved in every sale or client.
I do it, you do, everyone (except the birds and bees) does it… spend time on the WRONG things.
Managers and owners spend our time coaching and training our People to be more focused, more effective, more productive… but are we?
As a fan and follower of Laura Stack (the self-proclaimed “Productivity Pro”), I was excited to read her latest book, “Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time.”
She has a simple framework that outlines the 3 T’s — and is relevant for every People Coach (from to the CEO of a $1 billion firm to a small business owner with 5 people):
1. Thinking Strategically (Business)
2. Teamwork (Team)
3. Tactics (Self)
I call this Plan, People, and Process… and she has a nice breakdown of what a manager “should” be doing.
Get her book summary for free at this link: “Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time.”
(There is even a self-assessment on pages 13-17 if you are up for the feedback!)
As the coach, you have to both set the example as well as personally focus on the Right Things for your team to be effective and successful.
“*Managing by Wandering Around” doesn’t work anymore! (*A great term coined to Tom Peters and still used today by many successful small business owners, who are unfortunately trapped in their business because their team relies on constant attention.)
If your soccer team cannot see the goal post, and players don’t know what steps they need to take to score a point (can I use my hands?), you can’t expect to win many games. You can always hope the other team is more clueless.
Yet most managers (even at large employers) do not let employees know their expectations for performance or what results or goals are required for the individual to contribute to department and organizational success.
In fact, Towers Watson 2014 Talent Management and Rewards Study found that “Only half of the organizations participating in the say managers are effective at working with employees to set appropriate performance goals for individual performance.”
I have read other research that asked managers and employees to name the top 3 priorities in a job, and they agreed on only ONE! So most employees focus on two main results areas that are not the highest priority.
Basically, employees want to know what does a doing “good job” look like and how I will be measured– but they are usually left guessing.
And who is responsible? The manager….
The solution (simple to say, serious effort to do):
- Get crystal clear on the activities, results and key performance indicators for each job
- Share with employees and gain their understanding and agreement
- Track, monitor, share results with employee
- Coach performance (and process) improvements with each employee weekly, monthly, quarterly
Then you will often hear (to quote our retired Buffalo Sabres hockey commentator Rick Jeanneret), “he shoots – he scores!!!!”
Article- Employees get their purpose with cascading goals /a>
Learn more about how Expectations, goals and KPI dashboards work as part of your People Plan:
Clarifying Expectations section of our free resources
Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Determining the cause of a performance issue can be like being a detective– here is a list of 5 major reasons employees “don’t do the job” with possible solutions. (See part 2 for 5 more).
1. They don’t know what to do
2. They think they are doing it
Solution: I read many job descriptions—hundreds per year from dozens of organizations—rarely do they clarify for me the specific job activities and key results areas, much less how the job will be measured. It is difficult to hold someone accountable to results when the manager has not made it crystal clear what those results should be and what s/he has to do to get those results. Otherwise employees just take their best guess and do what seems to be the most urgent.
3. They think something else is more important
Solution: A great survey report showed that employees only agree with managers on 1 out of 3 priorities! Frequent coaching and follow up makes sure that what a person is working on is the highest priority for the job and department. An employee does the best she can reading the tea leaves to guess what her manager thinks is priority. Don’t make them guess… also, remember employees often don’t have the broader view or much information outside of their own activities (and yes, the more they do the better decisions they will make.)
4. They don’t know how to do it
Solution: Work with employee to identify skill or competency to enhance with training, create a training plan with a timeline and hold employee accountable to stick to the plan (even if it means reminding her manager to schedule the time or resources).
5. They are uncomfortable doing it
Solution: Sometimes a little training can increase someone’s confidence and they become “comfortable” with the task and then perform it regularly. More likely this is a symptom of job fit—someone’s personality traits or competencies are not aligned with those required to excel in the job. A classic example is “asking for the sale”— a person who is cooperative (lower assertive) can be trained for years on sales techniques and given scripts, but he is always uncomfortable closing. For job fit, the remedy is to change the job duties to ones that correspond with the person’s strengths and attributes.
(Read 5 more reasons at the second part of this article)
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net