The All-Too-Common Reasons Businesses Stop Growing
When I was just starting out in business, I couldn’t understand why any company paid for a group of managers. I know it sounds dumb, but it didn’t make sense to me at 17 or 18 years old.
Here were these people who got paid a ton of money and appeared to do very little actual work. It kind of sounded like the best job ever. You tell people what to do, but don’t actually do anything yourself, and you get paid well for it.
That was then, this is now.
As I’ve become older and wiser, and become a manager of people, myself, I’ve realized that managers do a little more than 18-year-old Shaun thought they did.
A good manager can add so much value to the business. They can train people to be better at their jobs and motivate employees to push through a hard time or difficult task. They can figure out complicated problems and even create or fix systems. Managers can help with customer service and customer retention. They keep the team accountable, prioritize tasks, and make sure everyone shows up and gets to work.
The list goes on and on, but we all know a good manager is a must-have for any business. The manager, in many cases, can literally make or break the business, kind of like a good football coach can make or break a team.
Too few is not enough.
That leads me to the first area where a business can get stuck: not enough management. When you first start out, it’s just you. Maybe you’ve gotten to the point where you need some help, and so you promote a high-performing employee to be your first manager. This is no small feat, as you’ve now doubled the amount of management, going from just you, to you plus one. But when do you need a third manager?
Far too often, entrepreneurs don’t invest in a team soon enough. We get scared about the cost or if they will have enough work to do. We come up with a dozen reasons why this is not a good time to hire a new manager, and if that is the position you’re in right now, in all likelihood, you should have hired a new manager weeks ago.
By not hiring and growing your management team, you will eventually stall and get stuck. Your business will move forward a little and back a little, a process that will continue until you increase the company’s capacity by hiring a competent manager.
You can also get stuck and stop growing when the business outgrows the management team. I’ve had this happen to me on multiple occasions. When you’re first starting out, you typically aren’t hiring high-level managers with years of outside experience.
When roles demand new faces.
As you grow, most people can keep up with you. But after a while, you will outgrow your managers’ skill sets and need to replace them. This is one of the more difficult things to do as CEO.
These are the people you have been in the trenches with. They’ve been there for you through thick and thin, and you feel a loyalty to them, but those feelings don’t change the fact that your manager is no longer the person for the job. And, as the person responsible for doing what’s best for the company, you have to delicately work with the manager who isn’t the right fit anymore to exit them from the business. It sucks, but it is the reality of business and growth.
The final way that management can get you stuck comes as you approach $5 million-plus in sales. Most of the time, at that point you need to start looking to hire outside talent to fill at least some of your managerial positions. Promoting high-performing team members simply won’t work any longer.
What you’re looking for is someone who has seen the path you’re about to go down and understands the normative model, so they can assist you in achieving the company’s growth goals.
Being the driver means creating road-kill.
I know I’ve just laid out black-and-white explanations that, in a nice way, include instructions to fire some people and to not promote others. Depending on who is reading this, they may think I’m a jerk -- and some ex-employees would likely agree with them.
In real life, these decisions aren’t easy, and they are one of the top three worst parts of my job as CEO. But my duty to the company and every other employee is to make these hard choices. My job is to make sure we keep growing and create opportunities and a healthy company for every employee, not just a few people.
Does my job suck sometimes? Hell yeah, it does; and if you ever find yourself in one of these unpleasant situations, it will suck for you, too. But this is our job, and it’s what we get paid to do.
So, rip the Band-Aid off and get back to growing your company. In today’s competitive environment, you have no choice. It is grow or die, out there.