If you’re a founder trying to grow a startup, one of the big things stopping that growth could be you.
I’ve worked both for and with a number of startups. Some of them have grown well, but others have reached a certain point – the same point each time – and then stagnated. Each time their expansion has stopped for the same reason: startups reach a stage where the only way they can keep growing is for their founders to stop doing and start managing.
Stop Doing The Things You Don’t Like
The first step to stopping doing is to outsource or delegate the things you don’t like doing. This is the easiest way to free up your time, and may also make you happier. After all, if you started a business because you love technology then doing the books each months feels like a bit of a chore.
At a marketing agency I worked for – I was their first employee and when I left they had grown to a company of 15 people – we put this into practice by hiring a part-time office manager and a project manager. The results were impressive.The project manager helped the Head of Development to take a step back from coding and start concentrating on strategy. He also brought in formal processes, making us less reliant on the Head of Dev, reassuring clients, and making us more efficient. The office manager took over much responsibility for day-to-day financial tasks, including chasing clients for invoices. Not only did that help us to get paid faster, but being a step removed from financial questions helped those of us in client-facing roles improve relationships and win more business.
You wouldn’t expect hiring a project manager and a part-time office manager to lead to higher revenues and growth, but that’s exactly what happened.
Stop Doing The Things You’re Good At
Delegating or outsourcing the things you don’t enjoy can free up some of your time. But if you truly want to scale your business you’re going to need to stop doing the things you’re good at.
It sounds like a crazy idea, but it’s not just me who advocates delegating the things you’re good at: it’s a key part of Perry Marshall’s 80/20 concept. And with good reason. If you’re an entrepreneur you probably started your business in an area you’re excited about and enjoy working in. This means the things you’re good at and enjoy probably take up a large portion of your day – until you stop doing those things you won’t truly be able to free your time up to manage and think strategically.
This advice definitely takes in selling. If you’re a founder of a growing startup then you have almost definitely done sales, been pretty good at it, and probably enjoyed it. But sales is part of the tactical work that you need to give up: your company can’t scale until you hand that work on to somebody else.
Start Thinking Strategy
Businesses can grow to a certain size while their founders are involved in day-to-day work. But at a certain stage the lack of management and strategy will start to tell: deadlines will slip, projects will become unstable, staff will become unhappy, and the company will contract. The company will have reached the limits of its growth.
Businesses can only grow past that point when their founders stop focusing on the everyday tasks needed to keep moving forward and start thinking about strategy. Not just marketing strategy or financial plans but being strategic in everything they do, from training to platforms and product development. It’s the long view that keeps the business growing.
And as long as you are doing some of the same things you were when you first started your business – even if you’re great at them – you won’t be able to take that strategic view.