The secret to scaling any business

Updated to Business on December 14, 2022.

I can’t overstate this.

If you want to scale your business you need to get out of the way.

Maybe not the advice you were looking for, but it could be just what you need.

In the last seven years, I have consulted with over 200 small business owners. At the same time, I also turned a fledgling small business into a successful mid-6-figure exit. To quote master coach Marshall Goldsmith, this is what I learned: “What got you here won’t get you there.” In other words, the skills, strategies, systems, and thinking it takes to start a business are very different from what you need to make it bigger.

Here’s the first thing to understand…

You are replaceable

My guess is that you are the best at what you do.

In landscaping, you’re the best at securing big contracts or designing backyards. In real estate, you land the big listings. If you coach, teach or consult, chances are clients all ask for you.

And that’s a problem.

In a previous business, my corporate training company would deliver over 100 training days a year. The problem was that I delivered over 80 of them.
Once my ego accepted that there are people equally talented and ambitious everything changed. Finally, my business started to grow without me putting in more hours.

You might be the best at what you do, but there is always somebody who can also deliver what your customers need. After all, that’s what your competition does.

Fix problems with systems

Every problem in your business is a system waiting to be built.

Systems – like how you onboard a new client, or resolve a complaint – add massive value to a company. Systems, perfected over time, allow you to step away from the day-to-day running of your company. And – perhaps most importantly – systems make your company more attractive to a buyer.

Here’s the trick to building systems…

Before putting on your gloves to fix yet another problem, ask yourself: “What system do we need so this problem never happens again?”

Here are systems you might need:

  • Pipeline follow-up and reporting
  • Client quotations and follow up
  • Lead generation using email or LinkedIn
  • online performance reporting
  • Social media updates
  • Email drip campaigns
  • Automated billing
  • Client onboarding checklist
  • Client follow up and surveys
  • Onboarding new team members

If you are always fixing problems you’ll never add real value to your company. If you want to grow your business and create real value, build systems and get out of the way.

Get some urgency

Most business owners I know like being busy. They would never admit it, but being busy can be confused as being important.

They complain their lists keep getting longer and the problems never stop. Their weeks are a blur of To-Do lists that keep getting longer. Then one day they decide to take that long-overdue vacation and book a flight to somewhere warm.

Now they have urgency and chances are their focus turns towards what’s urgent, not simply what’s important.

Urgency (like leaving for vacation) has a way of making priorities clearer. If you own a business; get some urgency. Set deadlines, book projects, and campaigns, block off three-day weekends, and learn how to use your calendar to become strategically unavailable.

Get out of your own way

I used to think growing a business automatically led to a more valuable business. But that’s not how investors see it.

Investors want a healthy business that runs without the owner. And they certainly don’t want a business reliant on the founder’s hard work or street smarts.
The recipe for a scalable, valuable business starts with getting out of your own way, plus systems and a dash of urgency.