4 myths about growing a business

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By Maureen Jordan

For many business owners, the prospect of growth is daunting. It’s hard work, it’s expensive, it’s scary – and all manner of other excuses. The temptation is to do nothing or find reasons not to grow or expand. However, if you have successfully opened the doors of your business, have a niche for your product or service and have implemented the right systems, procedures and strategies, then you already have a solid platform on which to grow successfully. 

So let’s dispel some of those growth myths that may be buzzing around in your head.

1. I’m too busy to grow

Restaurateur, entrepreneur and internationally renowned brand, Neil Perry, has turned a culinary vision into a big-time business success story courtesy of a simple change in focus.

Years ago, Perry’s business reached a stage where it was consuming too much of his time, and it became clear he was devoting himself to the wrong aspects of the venture. With strategic thinking, he was able to free himself from jobs he did not like (or wasn’t good at) and concentrate his skills in areas where he was strong.

Perry did a SWOT analysis on himself. He identified his strengths and which prospects he could target as a result. Next, he listed his weaknesses, opportunities and the threats that could hurt his business. As a result of this analysis, Perry brought in two partners who complemented his skills and gave him time to build the business. Accountant Trish Richards helped him crunch the numbers and gave him an accurate picture of where things were heading. 

Another partner, David Doyle, provided input that helped him focus on the direction of the business. 

“Figure out what you’re good at and get people around you who can do the things you can’t do. You’ve got to have like-minded people around you,” Perry says.

It is clear that if you want to grow your business you have to be prepared to stop doing everything yourself or you will burn out. In Perry’s case, he gave up some of his autonomy to bring in the expertise he needed. It allowed him to concentrate on the areas in which he excelled.

The upshot is that Perry’s frustration levels dropped and he was able to create systems that meant his business still operated efficiently, even when he was not there. Business growth that also creates an income-generating operation when you are elsewhere will help deliver a business you will be happy to keep for a long time.

2. I can’t grow because I’m irreplaceable

If you are of the mindset that all your clients want you, and that no one can do a job as well as you can, then you will be the greatest obstacle to your own business growth. 

At a certain stage in your business development, it could be true that clients want only you, but you have created that dependency, and, just possibly, some part of you might even like feeling needed. 

This is where an organisation chart comes into play. Take a good look at your chart and see how many hats you’re wearing. Are you the CEO, head of sales, financial controller, customer service representative and administration officer? If so, it may be time to create systems so that others can step into these roles. Loosen the reins a little.

3. It will be easier when we have more people

Careful what you wish for: while many hands can make light work, the more staff you have, the more headaches you can have, too. 

People bring to the workplace everything that makes them who they are. Great people usually carry little baggage, or know how to store it during working hours. Many others bring lots of baggage and don’t know that dumping this in the workplace is far from appropriate. 

Every employer will face times when employees experience a crisis. That’s just a fact of life. Employees can easily encounter problems that will need a supportive boss to help them get though. It’s important that a boss or a manager lends a sympathetic ear when an employee is in strife, but it’s equally important for that boss or manager not to fall into the role of counsellor when an employee reveals they have many issues.

Getting your hiring strategy right is the priority. Some people carry a heavy load that they want to drop on others whenever they can, so choosing employees carefully makes sense. A business owner is already doing the economy a service by taking on the risks associated with business. This, in turn, provides many people with jobs. Bosses do not have to be everyone’s saviour as well. 

Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats, to paraphrase Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, often causes great difficulties for small businesses. No matter how desperate you are for extra hands, religiously follow this rule – hire slowly. Go back to your organisation chart. If you don’t have one, then the first step is to develop a chart that depicts every job in your business. 

In our company, Switzer Media + Publishing, there was a time when a few of us were doing every single job on the chart! Gradually we were able to hire people to fill these roles. 

Be flexible. On occasions we realised that we had the right person in the business (great work ethic and attitude) but they were not wearing the right hat, so we were able to change their position on the organisation chart. 

4. Growing a business is too hard

In some ways, starting a business is a little like having your first baby – you never knew what you were in for and thought you’d never get a full night’s sleep again! 

Growing a business, however, can be like raising a teenager. A growing business brings a different set of challenges to the table that can make a business owner feel out of control.

As an owner, you have to be able to let go and trust that other people in the company are well equipped to do their jobs and help you take the business to the next level. If you have done your groundwork well, if the systems are in place to allow the business to operate without your hands-on involvement, then all will be well. 

The hardest part is letting go of the baby you created. And just like raising a teenager, letting go occurs in a series of stages. Again, go back to your organisation chart. What jobs can you let go of now, in three months, in six months and so on? Can you use reliable contractors who can help lighten your workload to give you more time for strategic thinking? 

There will come a time in your business growth where you don’t know everything that’s going on in your business. With the right people in the right positions, there are many decisions that can be made without you, and all you need is a report detailing the outcome. 

See that as a measure of success.

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