I’ve had a number of recent discussions with entrepreneurs in companies with at least a couple of years under their belts, so not exactly startups, and I’ve noticed a chief complaint: "Why won't my company grow faster?"
This is an easy topic to quickly glance over with some surface discussion on marketing and sales strategy, but being that I'm typically unsatisfied with surface-level discussion, I've dug deeper and consistently found these three problems:
1. Expectations of employees are too high. The story often goes like this: you started the company because you were working for another and thought you could whatever they were doing better and weren’t opposed to taking on some risk -- after all, you fear nothing.
So you quit your job, opened up shop and after a few months realize that you can, in fact, do it better, resulting in some great early success. Next thing you know you’re a couple years in -- or maybe more -- and have a number of people working for you, some of which are responsible for growing the business through sales.
The problem comes when you realize that no matter how great they appeared at the point of hire, they just don’t seem to want to work as hard as you. You expected to put the processes in place, give them all the necessary tools and just sit back and relax while they grow your business, right? Wrong.
Finding salespeople that are naturally wired to treat your business like it’s their own are like unicorns -- impossible to find. In fact, if you think you have one please hold it captive, as the scientific and business communities are highly interested in studying this creature.
Do not make the mistake of creating an expectation that your employees are going to work like you work or think like you think, because if they did, they’d own their own businesses and wouldn’t be working for you. Instead, you must provide them with the proper leadership and structure to help them grow and be more successful.
2. Lack of will to make the tough decisions. In business there are difficult decisions that must be made every day, and then there are the ridiculously difficult organizational decisions that will require weeks or even months worth of work to accomplish.
Although these only occasionally arise, they dictate the true future and direction of your company. These decisions are usually easier to just avoid, resulting in considerably less work but the continued status quo. These decisions often revolve around replacing personnel that have become engrained in the business, typically based on their having been there since the very beginning.
Here’s the deal: You can’t expect your company to grow to the status of “world domination” or even “city domination” if you’re not willing to make the necessary decisions or put in the time and effort to change the direction. It’s not going to be comfortable or fun, but it must be done. Change will not come without change.
3. No means to track important numbers. This is a topic that really could be it’s own article, but it’s important enough that it must be brought up, even if brief. Young companies tend to dramatically lack reporting functions.
Now I realize that one of the many reasons you left your huge corporate gig to start your own business is because you hated being micro-managed by an overwhelming number of reports, and that’s fine. The difference is that those reports provided, if anything, small amounts of value to the company and were derived over years and years of different executives and managers, becoming a micro-management tool.
The reports that your company must create should revolve around providing you and your management team with nearly real-time feedback based on what your field personnel -- sales and support -- are seeing when they interact with customers and clients. It’s this feedback that will help you adjust to the ongoing needs of your customers while providing the very necessary oversight that employees require -- without being “big brother,” of course.
If you do this from the very beginning, it will just be normal. If you’re adding this on later, make sure you express the true purpose of the reports, to get your team's help and feedback, then actually use them.
Understand that your employees will only be as good as you lead them to be -- the clean version of the saying goes, “poop rolls down hill.” You can’t just hire people and expect them to be productive without leadership and some amount of structure.
Do yourself and your business a favor and spend some time in self-reflection and make the tough decision as to whether you are that person for the job, and if you’re not, hire the person that is.