Are You Standing in the Way of Business Growth?

Written by Rob Malec

Ask any CEO or business owner the question, “Are you interested in growing your business?”, and they’ll invariably answer with an enthusiastic “Yes!”. When you look at their actions around running and planning for their business, however, the audio doesn’t always match the video in the way necessary for business growth.

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, I speak with CEOs and business owners every day, and yes, they are all enthusiastic about growing their companies. In many cases I find the audio does match the video, and their actions are consistent with their stated desire for business growth. But there is also a [not so small] proportion whose actions are inconsistent with their stated desire for business growth. Find out which category you fit into.

Are You the Hindrance to Business Growth? 3 Types of CEOs or Business Owners 

After 21 years of working with well over a hundred companies, I’ve observed that there are three camps of CEOs and business owners.

1. Those who state a commitment to business growth and act to make that growth happen

Those who are truly committed to growth always seem to find a way to make it happen. Rather than their business resembling pushing a rock uphill, it’s more akin to water running downhill. It finds its way over, under, and around obstacles to growth.

These owners are resourceful and pragmatic. A trait they all share is a keen awareness of “knowing what they don’t know”. They understand that in order to take their company to the next level they need to hire or contract expertise that they don’t have.

In a recent conversation with a client, they stated, “I know I need to hire people smarter than myself for us to be successful”. Given that this is one of the smartest people I know, their comment really hit home for me. Knowing when to bring on expert help is key to realizing business growth.

2. Those who state a commitment to business growth but don’t really want to grow

Not wanting to grow is not a bad thing at all. Many business owners start businesses to support themselves, their families, and the lifestyle they would like to enjoy. These business owners share a common characteristic. They are not out to conquer the world or to be a Fortune 500 company. They want themselves and their family to live their best life and set about to make that happen, which is never an easy thing to accomplish as a self-employed person. Starting your own business is certainly not the ‘safe’ road. These types of companies are a great thing and are the backbone of our economy.  My feeling on business owners like this is “More power to you!”.

3. Those who state a commitment to business growth but don’t have the wherewithal to act to make it happen

Those who state their commitment to growth but don’t have the wherewithal to act to make it happen also share a common characteristic: they can’t seem to get out of their own way. Businesses that have a culture of being deferential to the boss generally hit a growth ceiling and struggle mightily to get past it. Because they hire people who are okay to toe the line and not make waves, significantly fewer creative ideas are brought forth, let alone implemented.

When people wait to be told what to do and when and how to do it, there’s not much room for innovation. It’s fascinating to peek inside of these companies and see that somehow, someway inside of the hiring process those who are great at following orders get hired over the mavericks. The resulting [inadvertent] culture leads to stagnation of business growth.

CEOs and owners who need to have their hands in everything and can’t let go are often confused as to why business growth isn’t happening. They don’t recognize that they are the chokepoint. I recently worked with a CEO of a 70-person company who insisted on dealing with inbound customer service issues. Time spent on handling customer service issues (which should be delegated to someone else) is time that can’t be spent on the higher-level CEO issues that are the levers for growth. This approach may be appropriate in the start-up phase but is an obvious hindrance to growth in the maturity phase.

Beyond needing to have their hand in everything, some CEOs and business owners take things one step further and need to control everything. In this situation, even with department heads and team leads in place, every decision must be run by them. They make decisions about process change and only implement when they feel the time is right.  They don’t give their leaders the latitude to be leaders. This situation not only impedes business growth but also results in frustrated employees.

The Way Forward for Business Growth

If business growth is on your mind and you decide to act on that, then great. If your goal is to build a lifestyle business, that’s fantastic too.  But if you’re trying to achieve business growth and struggling to do so, then evaluate whether you’re the one standing in the way.

One common characteristic these business leaders often face is that they are unaware they are getting in their own way.  In some ways, this makes sense because to these people, their business is their baby and they feel the need to do everything themselves to ensure that business thrives. They came up with the idea, they struggled and bootstrapped and made it what it is today. It can be tough to let go in the way you need to for business growth to happen.

If business growth is on your mind and you are struggling to achieve it, I’m happy to chat and share my experiences with you and perhaps help you to find a path forward. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

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