9/23/11

Stunted Growth

Business Planning (Part 10)

The Business Planning series will posted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through the month of September 2011.



Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when growing our companies. It is not that we want to limit growth; in fact, it is the opposite. We are often so concerned about all aspects of our companies that we find ourselves involved in every part of the business and consequently stretched very thin. As entrepreneurs, our businesses often are our lives and it is normal and comfortable to be involved. It is not unusual for business owners to have a very difficult time working through others to the degree that they actually stunt the growth of their company.

This week, our blogs have portrayed the growth plans of several companies with examples of success and failure. The final story this week is about an owner whose company will never reach its potential.

Betty was a visionary with great plans for her company. She could see the growth and expansion opportunities and knew what had to be done to capitalize. Being a hard worker, she invested her time, money and effort into building and perfecting every component while launching the company. The company grew adding staff - administrative, marketing and accounting including producers to work with customers and clients. The plan was working and Betty kept a tight rein on the business.

She had her hands full and realized that she needed help. The tough part would be finding someone who would do the job as she would. Betty searched for the right person to be her #2 and found a person she had worked with before. Growth made it easy for the #2 to be extremely busy and take on some roles in new business development that were a part of the plan. While that was great it really did not take anything off Betty’s plate and in some ways added to it.

The #2 told Betty that it was time to hire a third person into the core leadership team. Without the third to take some of the work off of both of them, they could not grow. Growth would stop when it reached the point that neither of them could do any more. The #2 had a person in mind for the role. Betty knew the person and their work. Still cautious, she did not bring them on to the team but contracted for project work as a test. The combination of more growth and good work by #3 led to employment. The core leadership team was formed with #2 and #3 as near peers, able to take significant work off Betty so that she could propel the company’s growth.

Challenges started to show up not long after #3 was on board. Betty still wanted to be involved in everything. It wasn’t exactly a lack of trust as much as it was that Betty was a control freak and could not fully delegate. While she was a wonderful visionary, hard worker and entrepreneur, she had not learned key management skills that would give her confidence and business safety points to work through others.

After trying to work with Betty for a while, but never given the opportunity to really apply talents and skills without constant micro management, both #2 and #3 left the company for similar positions with competitors. Betty found herself back where she had been a few years earlier.

Betty still has a good company and her hands are full but her company will never grow beyond her capacity to work and is in fact vulnerable if anything should happen. She is still complaining about never being able to take time off. She is somewhat bitter, still, that #2 and #3 left her and especially that they have demonstrated success in their new companies. In spite of the writing on the wall, she still does not understand that until she can work through others, her company will be stunted in growth by what she is personally able to do.

The plan, no matter how strong, is not enough unless it factors in growth that leverages and works through others with expectations set, communicated and inspected regularly.

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