7 Principles of Scaling a Business and Still Have a Life

7 Principles of Scaling a Business and Still Have a Life

Those scaling a business often get stuck in a trap of working too much and giving up their personal lives. That leads to burnout, but also damages the bottom line, contend those who have successfully scaled a business. They share how to have a life – and grow the business.

Scaling a business can be thrilling and exhilarating – but it also can be exhausting.

It’s not unusual to hear those in the midst of growing a department, division or small business talk about how they’re working 60 to 80 hours a week, rarely seeing their friends or families. They may even admit they’re not sure they’ve brushed their teeth in the last week.

When reaching this point, alarms should begin to sound. Not just because no one can keep up such a pace, but because it means the person is actually hurting the business instead of helping it. Growth will actually stall instead of accelerating when one person is putting too much into scaling efforts, claim authors of a new book, “Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back.

Authors Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel say that when one person is trying to do it all, then quality suffers.

“We kind of get into this mindset that no one could do this as well as I can,” Finkel explains. “So you end up partially doing a lot. But then you reach a point where you can’t give everything all of your attention and you start to take shortcuts.”

Another problem is that the manager or business owner who won’t let go of any of the work is seen as a micromanager, damaging the morale and productivity of other team members. Finkel adds that while you may believe you can add value to a particular scaling idea or process, the reality is that “your two cents worth might make the job 10% better, but you lose 50% of the buy-in from others.”

“We often overvalue our own ideas. Let other people do it their way. It may be different, it might not,” he says.

The authors also stress that a business owner or manager who is trying to scale a business alone will soon find it’s a formula for disaster. To illustrate the point, they say you should ask yourself this question: “If you were hit by a bus tomorrow (or otherwise incapacitated), what would happen to your business?”

They say that in a survey of more than 1,000 business owners over the last five years, they found the average business owner’s enterprise would fail in 30 days.

Of course, some people balk at even thinking about their own vulnerability, Finkel says. Then, they begin to worry that they must be indispensable or they will be replaced. Finkel explains that once they understand that creating a stable organization will protect their position, not eliminate it, they begin to see how the Lone Ranger attitude is harmful – to them and to others.

7 Principles of Scaling a Business without Working Long Hours

Hoffman, former CEO of the Priceline.com family of companies and Finkel, CEO of Maui Mastermind, have both successfully scaled their businesses. They say the way to scale a business without working longer hours means following seven principles:

  1. Build a business, not a job. Remember the “hit by a bus” lesson? If you want a life, you’ve got to reduce your business’s reliance on you so that your business can produce more.
  2. Build on the stable, scalable, three-legged base of systems, teams and internal controls. It’s not just enough to hire good people. You have to support your team with smart business systems and intelligent internal controls that reliably help them produce more and better.
  3. Understand why your customers really do business with you.
  4. Only by focusing your company’s resources on fewer, better things will you be able to grow your business. Develop a strategic plan that you apply quarter by quarter.
  5. Don’t rely on the status quo. “It’s critical that you learn to read the world so that you can innovate and seize opportunities for growth (not to mention avoid being blindsided by disruptive change and put out of business!),” they write.
  6. Remove predictable obstacles. Whether it’s in sales and marketing, operations or finance, you must be ready to move past known roadblocks in these areas as you scale the business.
  7. Be smarter with your time. Working more hours isn’t the key to success. It’s upgrading the use of your time to focus on the things that you do that truly create value for the company. “Scaling your company is a process, not a light switch you flip in one moment,” they write. “While it won’t happen overnight, when you stay the course, it will happen faster than you could have imagined.”

The book also provides a rating system to help those who are overwhelmed by scaling a business to determine what makes the best use of their time, and how even small changes can make huge differences in providing more life balance.

For example, they tell the story of one business owner who found email to be an “irresistible lure that tempted her into personally handling too many of the low-level details of operating her business.” The solution? She pulled the cable out of her Internet modem every day at 6 p.m. to reduce temptation. In the first year that she controlled her environment in this way, she grew her business by more than 40% and got her evenings back.

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  • Nice overview. It’s tough for small business owners to take that break. (See agency theory.) As my friend Terri Griffith says, it’s important to “lead by letting go.”