Do you as a business owner, feel “stressed-out” has become your new normal? Does it seem like you spend an inordinate amount of time putting out fires? If this is you, it’s time to address the second major obstacle to growing a successful business.
In part 1 of this series on entrepreneurial obstacles to success, we explored cash flow. It’s the primary reason why many businesses fail.
In my experience as a serial entrepreneur and business advisor, I’ve noticed that these roadblocks fall into five basic categories. In this post, we examine the second fundamental roadblock.
The Five Roadblocks to Growth
- Cash Flow
- Business Development
- Business Model
Many of my clients complain that they never have enough time. They find themselves working late nights and weekends, constantly putting out fires and feeling very stressed out. They feel like they can’t get ahead or get anything done.
They are essentially working in the business instead of on the business. And they cannot grow beyond a certain point because they simply don’t have the time and energy to do so.
If this sounds like you, unless you operate your business as a solo enterprise, there is a 99% chance that you have people issues. (If you are a solo enterprise, then there is a 100% chance you have a people problem and it’s either you—or if you are using virtual outsource help, you may have the issue I discuss below.)
The underlying cause of this problem is that you either don’t have enough of the right people working for you, or you have the right people in the wrong positions. (Don’t worry solo entrepreneurs, I am writing another post for you, but a lot of what is here will still make sense for you)
How To Know If You Have People Problems
If you can say yes to any of the following questions then you probably have the problem I describe above.
- Do you have some employees that you can’t rely on or trust?
- Are there basic things that only you can do because nobody else can get it right?
- Do you find yourself having to constantly apologize for, work around and generally make up for the mistakes of other people on your staff?
OK, if this sounds like you, you may be wondering how this happened. The short version goes like this. In the beginning, most entrepreneurs hire people they can readily locate and afford. Sometimes this may include relatives and friends (Yikes!).
Yes, many of these folks are loyal and hardworking but most turn out to be expedient solutions that fill a time sensitive opening or emergent need.
Then one day, the business outgrows them. If you have hired this way—mainly to fill the gaps without regard to an overall plan—after a couple of years you will develop a core group of people who don’t really fit anymore.
And it’s never easy to let those people go. Sometimes we let them stay out of a sense of loyalty. But you need to understand that having the wrong people in your business is a costly burden which has compounding effects.
Over time, it can mire your business in survival mode instead of allowing you to grow in thriving mode.
You will need to be objective and assess each member of your staff. This means creating job descriptions and workflow descriptions, or (if you have them) updating them.
Many business owners will complain that they don’t have time to do this. So you may need some outside help or have an HR Consultant that can support you.
In a pinch, it’s OK to start out by doing a bullet point list of what you believe each of your key employees should be doing. Then compare what you have written with what you see.
And you might think you know, but most of you don’t yet know:
1. How well matched each person is for their job.
2. How efficiently and skillfully each person performs on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
It’s time to start paying attention.
What You Don’t Know, But Need To
For starters, if you have more than 10 employees, you will need to face the fact that you also don’t really know what is going on at the front or back end of your business.
In general, the people on the front lines know more than management about what is happening with customers, internal processes and sales. This is because they are the ones dealing with those issues on a day-to-day basis.
For example, if your company is consistently late to deliver on your services, the front line staff are the ones bearing the brunt of client complaints and workarounds.
Negative feedback may not make it back to you until it becomes a major problem, i.e. sales dropping, lots of angry clients calling, etc. This is because nobody on your staff will want to tell you the bad news unless they have no other choice.
When it is no longer possible to hide the truth, that’s when most business owners start noticing and have to race around apologizing to customers and trying to figure out what’s going wrong. However, the answers are elusive.
Getting the Right People in the Right Positions
To begin, engage with your front line staff and ask them what they find to be the most challenging things they do each day. Find out what would make their lives easier.
From this type of investigation, you will not only find out about what is wrong with your business processes (see Roadblock #3 below) but it should become apparent (by reading between the lines) who in your organization is a good manager, salesperson, production person or not.
That process helps to fill in the information you need to assess who is capable and who might be in the wrong role, or who might be just taking up space and getting in the way.
Once you have an assessment of the staff, you may need to make some tough decisions. Best not to take too much time because problems will have a way of multiplying and they don’t solve themselves.
In general you need to spend time finding the right people for your business. Yes, this takes time and energy, but the returns on your investment will be huge.
Remember, it’s also critical for you to take the necessary time to define roles and functions in your organization. This way, you can make sure that your next hire is a good match and has the right experience and skills for what you need.
As a business owner, do you experience frequent complaints and have trouble reliably delivering your product or service? If so, then you’ll want to read The Third Biggest Roadblock to Growing a Successful Business…