- Developed the capacity to handle multiple challenges.
- Committed yourself to learning how to find, keep, and grow customers.
- Learned to sell your products and services, perhaps mainly on the strength of your conviction and the infectiousness of your enthusiasm.
- Gained the support of other people who share your vision of how to serve your
As your firm grows beyond the ranks of the smallest of small businesses, with sales in excess of $1-million, it’s only natural to experience some growing pains. Along with the joy you feel at your company’s success may come the realization that your baby is becoming less dependent on you? Whether you began as a sole proprietor or with a staff of ten, as an entrepreneur you were your firm’s chief salesperson, promoter, organizer, and message to the marketplace, but as the company grows in size and complexity you won’t have enough hours in the day to oversee business functions. Self-check: How’s it growing?
Many owners have a hard time “letting go” even a little bit, but remember that increasing sales indicate you are doing a lot of things right! The question is, are you satisfied with your business the way it is? Would you be content to keep sales around their current level in exchange for retaining more control over your company? Or are you hungry for bigger numbers, greater prestige, and the chance to create a legacy?
Growing to the next level
So, what does it take to grow beyond $5-million in sales? You must develop a sharp clarity of purpose which is scalable; commit time and resources to develop a systematic, repetitive sales and marketing process; and polish either sales or delivery while understanding that the other one must be reinvented. Most of all, you need to possess an intense desire to “own” a market niche, a brand, or a category; otherwise, why keep growing?
Your primary task at this level of growth is to hone your Best and Highest Use® (BHU) and drive it through every level of your organization by strengthening your systems for finding, keeping, and growing customers. Your BHU is what you and your firm like doing, are good at doing, and your market has valued you for doing. If you decide to keep your small business small, the critical link between your BHU and the sales funnels is obvious even at the $1-million to $5-million level. To sustain future growth, however, you can’t keep such a tight grip on the reins. Now you need to design marketing, sales, and customer service efforts around your BHU that accomplish the same goals but rely less on your personal involvement. One of these days you’re going to have to take a break, whether it’s a month-long jaunt to the islands or a three-week stay in the cardiac ward, so you need to start positioning your firm to do well without you. Your baby is growing up, my friend, and he wants the keys to the car!
Many owners find this loss of control frustrating and frightening. This is why you hire reliable employees, and it’s why you need to infuse them with a vision of your firm’s Best and Highest Use so that they become extensions—albeit with their own unique talents, some of which may surpass your own—of your strategy for finding, keeping, and growing customers. Motivating your staff isn’t enough; an unbroken stallion is motivated, after all, and proves it with every rider it throws off into the dust. Instead, you want to get your people invested in your company’s success by investing themselves in your company. You need to develop a business culture that fosters individual contributions while providing clear direction in terms of what is best for the firm.
1) At this level, my conviction is:
Self-check: How’s it growing?
a) Wavering. If I could find a buyer, I would consider selling the business. Or maybe I should just shut down. Running this company is harder than I expected. Still, we have some good days.
b) Pretty strong. My company is doing fine, but I’m a realist. I run a small business, so there are a lot of things I just can’t do.
c) Stronger than ever. My firm is doing better than I expected, and I can see more good things coming in the future, at least for the next few months.
2) In terms of Best and Highest Use, I
a) Don’t get it. I’m still waiting for the market to respond to my offer. Why don’t more customers care about what my firm can do?
b) Got it. Been there, done that. Still have the T-shirt.
c) Am getting there. As I learn more about my prospects and customers, I keep seeing new opportunities to serve them. I can also tell when a prospect isn’t a good fit with my business, and I can’t waste time trying to twist my firm into knots just to make a sale.
3) To find, keep, and grow customers, my staff and I
a) Are consistent. We keep trying, and we keep failing. Three facts of life: death, taxes, and prospects not returning our calls.
b) Are focused. When we concentrate on finding customers, we really do a good job, but then we start having trouble holding on to our existing buyers. If we focus on keeping customers, however, we don’t get enough new business streaming in.
c) Work together. They set up the pins and I knock ‘em down. I still close most of our business and maintain customer relationships, but my employees are gaining skills and confidence in sales and service.
4) Delivering our products and services
a) Is more complicated than it used to be. Customer complaints are up, and we’ve lost a few accounts.
b) Is what it’s always been. I haven’t thought much about it, actually.
c) Is a work in progress. We’ve made some real strides, but current sales are stretching our capacities. We are working on improving our systems.
5.) As for repetition and consistency …
a) We’ll think about it later. We have enough to do to make it from this month to the next, so this isn’t something we’ve even considered.
b) We know we need it. It’s a question for the future; right now, we are trying to build a track record.
c) We feel challenged. Our company and brand are becoming established; in fact, they are pretty much indistinguishable from one another. The prospect of investing money, time, and energy into building our brand is daunting, but we know we need to do it and are taking small steps.