The entrepreneurial path is clear. First, grow your business. Then scale your business.
So, here’s how it goes:
Darlene starts her own graphic design company. At first, she’s thrilled to leave her cubicle job and get some clients. She can’t believe her great good fortune that she’s paid to do this thing she loves.
After a few years, Darlene has lots of clients. Some of them are on-going, and others come and go depending on the project. She has a bookkeeper and an accountant. She hired an assistant to help with the work-load. She has maxed out on all the best productivity tools, but her brain is still full up with open loops.
Darlene wonders whether she can keep on going like this. She knows she should be grateful – but can’t help but think something’s wrong with her. Last week, her biggest client called her with a project that could bring in a massive amount of income – but Darlene doesn’t feel excited anymore. She’s just stressed.
One day, Darlene hears the word “scalable.” Oo, she likes the sound of it. Can she “scale” her business? The thought of it makes her feel elated. She imagines that maybe she wouldn’t have to work so hard. (Nom nom.)
The problem with words like “scalable” is that we hear them in an instant… and at an unconscious level, we want them to work in an instant too. And while scalable IS possible in business, there are deep soulful things to consider, and then there are steps to take. “Scalable” is a great idea – but it’s tedious to implement. The Darlene’s of the world are not so good with that second part. 🙂
First, something to consider:
Do you WANT to scale your business?
If you scale your business, chances are you won’t be doing the thing you most love. You’ll be running a team of people who are doing the thing you most love. That’s an unbearable thought for many people.
If that’s you, then you can master the art of having a business by making things run smoothly, by hiring a small super star team, by charging premium prices and by packaging your offer in a way that makes your work higher value and easier to invoice.
You may not end up a millionaire – but you also may be happier this way.
If you know you DO want to scale your business, then you need to start with an understanding of how that will look. While there are different models for scaling a business, the basic idea is this:
You shift your model to work one-to-many, by hiring a team of people under you to do the work you’ve been doing (and you lead and then train them).
The challenge here is that stepping back and fixing at how things work can feel a lot like changing the tires while you’re going 120 mph. That’s because your business still needs to make money while things get cleaned up in the background and prepped for growth.
I don’t know a single business owner who has vast swaths of time left open for system clean up and/or visioning. You must carve out that time and then show up. Clean up work can take years, depending on how chaotic your current systems are.
No matter which track you choose, you have to create impeccable processes so that you aren’t continually putting out fires and dealing with the myriad snafus that happen in the daily interactions with clients, customers and sales.
Here’s some starting clean up steps to scale your business…
1 – YOU.
What’s on your plate?
Make a list of everything you do that takes your time. And don’t ignore the little things that make you say, “Oh, well, that’s just 15 minutes here and there.” No it’s not. Fifteen minutes here and there is an energy drain and a constant interruption.
2 – How you get paid.
Some questions to ask yourself: Are you charging enough? Do your invoicing/billing processes work? Can you create packages, rather than billing per hour? Can you take credit cards, rather than waiting for checks?
3 – Your team.
Many entrepreneurs have settled for people who aren’t very good and who don’t really support their work. Because they are already so overwhelmed, their mantra becomes “at least I have someone.” (Ah, the siren song of the codependent.)
Time to get rid of the dead weight. You cannot scale a business or even improve your current situation if you have draining people on your team. Uplevel your hiring process. Get exactly who you want on your team.
4 – Your client processes
When you get a new client, how much of your time is spent doing the same stuff over and over again? Could you streamline a process – while still being personal and service-focused?
How do you stay in touch with your clients in the middle of a project? Do they get to call you on a whim? Or do you schedule regular calls with them so that they are routinely updated on the process, the project and any unforeseen challenges that arise?
I bet that you are pretty much always textable and available. This needs to stop. The reason it’s happening is that the client hasn’t been trained any other way. Time to step in and teach your clients how to treat you.
5 – Your clients
Are you working with clients you love? Or have you outgrown some of them? Again, get clear and let go of the dead weight. Take time to figure out who is your most ideal client and work ONLY with that client.
Most solo-business owners have no idea why they aren’t able to grow and scale things. These 5 points are where it starts.
Another starting point is my Uplevel Your Business Program & Blueprint. It’s the 10-Step Solution to growing a business that supports you in the work you love to do. Doors close Friday, April 3rd – so this will be your last chance to work with me for the one and only time I’m offering Uplevel Your Business in 2015. Just click here to sign up.