Scale Up Faster By Slowing Down

Entrepreneurial Freedom, Process, Traction

When you drive your car, do you keep the engine redlined, ignore the warning lights on the dash, and turn up the radio so you don’t hear the noises coming from somewhere underneath? My hope is that you don’t. So why do so many entrepreneurs do exactly those things when driving their business and trying to scale up?

I may be dating myself, but for those of us who learned to drive a manual transmission, you know that in order to shift gears smoothly you have to ease off the throttle. If you have ever driven on icy, slick roads, you know that if you lose traction, you have to slow down to regain your grip.

Running a business is no different. I was recently facilitating an EOS® quarterly off-site with a leadership team of a growing business. They had just opened their second location and their big goal, or Core Target™ as we call it in the EOS® world, was to systemize the model and scale up to 20 locations by 2025. Their Visionary owner had been passionately driving toward that goal since we met.

But there was a problem. They were running into customer-service issues, having trouble hitting numbers, not communicating well, and struggling to define and document their Core Processes.

As we began to dig deeper into what the underlying issues truly were, to a person, the Leadership Team members all admitted to being stretched well beyond their capacity. To use the analogy above, they were all redlined and the Visionary owner still had her foot on the gas and the pedal to the floor. They needed to speak up and just say no to grow.

I was eventually able to push the team to the point of being 100% open and honest with the Visionary about the aggressive drive to the Core Target™ and how they were struggling to scale up while the engine for their growth sputtered and skipped as it needed a tune-up. After some very open discussions, the Visionary began to have a revelation.

We transitioned into a conversation about what it would look like to take a breath for the next 6-12 months, focus on fine-tuning the engine and letting growth happen organically, and then, only after the engine was rebuilt and ready, hitting the gas and going hard for the finish line.

With a fresh perspective from the Visionary and a much relieved and refocused Leadership Team, we refined their 3-Year Picture™ and 1-Year Plan, then set Rocks to focus on an alignment around solving their internal issues and tuning the business to scale up in years 2, 3, and beyond.

6 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Blow Your Engine

  1. Do we have the growth engine for our business well tuned and ready for the journey ahead?
  2. Do we have a clear structure in place, defining the flow of accountability to get us to the next level?
  3. Are all of the right people in the right seats?
  4. Does everyone in the organization share our Vision? Are we all 100% aligned?
  5. Is our Business Playbook (our Core Processes) defined, optimized, documented and Followed by All?
  6. Do we have good data and does everyone in the organization have a number?

As we closed our session at the end of the day, the feedback was unanimous. Everyone, including the Visionary, felt more confident and aligned. Even though the pace of external growth may slow for a few quarters, the pace of internal growth will explode. And when the internal growth is strong, this team will be well poised to scale up to their 2025 goal and may even blow it out of the water a few years early.

Next Steps

Written by Michael Erath, Master Facilitator, Certified EOS Implementer™, Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Traction Hub

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Just Say “No” to Achieve Growth

Entrepreneurial Freedom, Traction

Have you ever said yes to something and then regretted the commitment you made? If so, you’re normal. Saying no is difficult for two primary reasons, which I will share below. But being able to say no is essential in creating the capacity to say yes to, and to be successful at, what is truly important.

Many of the organizations I work with struggle with this, especially when it comes to turning down orders that are simply not a good fit for them. One particular example is from a printing and large-format graphics organization I have been working with for more than 5 years now. The company’s owners started in their garage in 2004, and today have built the company into a successful $10+ million busines. But it wasn’t without some bumps along the way.

In the early days, they were taking every order that came their way. It was always about finding a way to get to yes—and in those early days, doing so was critical to their survival. By the time we started working together, they had invested in very expensive large-format printing equipment and were capable of taking on very large projects. But their ability to achieve growth had flatlined and they were stuck.

One of the early issues we recognized that was holding them back and causing frustrations was that they were still saying yes to every job that came their way. It was a habit based on what allowed them to survive when they were a startup. When we began to look at the kind of work that was a good fit for the current business, they began to recognize that much of the work they were saying yes to included jobs that were too small to efficiently utilize their newer, higher capacity production model. What was a fit for them in startup mode was no longer a fit.

The end result was that by saying yes to the small projects they had survived on in the early days, but which now created inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and frustrations, they were essentially saying no to doing more of the kind of work that was a right fit for them in their current stage. When they began to say no to the smaller orders that didn’t fit, they created more capacity to go after the big jobs that did. They became more efficient, more profitable, and their growth rate accelerated.

Why Is “No” So Difficult?

There are two primary reasons that we find it difficult to say no. It requires deliberate courage and it creates awkwardness. In his book Essentialism, author Greg McKeown explains these two reasons why we struggle to just say no.

Deliberate Courage

We often say yes to things in an effort to avoid conflict, avoid disappointing others, or to give in to pressure. It takes a clear understanding of what is important and why in order to develop the clarity to know when to say no. With clarity and focus on the important things you will have to say no to by saying yes in the moment to something minor, the courage to say no to the trivial, or less than important, becomes easier to find.

Social Awkwardness

We have a natural tendency as humans to conform to what people expect of us. Psychologists refer to this as normative conformity, or “the conformity that occurs because of the desire to be liked or accepted” Deutsche and Gerrard (1955).

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and it is up to us to determine how we choose to allocate them. Have you ever been invited to something by a group of peers and said yes, even though it forced you to give up something of more value that you needed to do? Have you been asked to do something by a boss or colleague even though you did not have the capacity to do it without dropping something else?

Saying no actually brings us physical and emotional discomfort in these situations. What we have to pause and remember before answering these requests is whether to politely say no, and regret it for a moment, or begrudgingly say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or years.

Next Steps to Achieve Growth

I want to challenge you, before the end of the day today, to set aside 15 quiet minutes alone to think about all the important things you are not able to focus on because of the things to which you should have said no. Make a list of the three to seven things that are most important to you. The next time somebody asks you to do something, pause and ask yourself, “Will this harm my capacity to focus on the important few things?” If yes, then smile, and give them a polite, “No.”

To learn more about how The TRACTION Hub can help you and your organization clarify, simplify, and achieve your vision, contact us.

 

Written by Michael Erath, Master Facilitator, Certified EOS Implementer™, Best-Selling Author and Founder of The Traction Hub

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