Most of you aspiring entrepreneurs have no idea how dramatically your own role has to evolve as you develop a solution, start a business, and expect it to scale into a successful self-managed company. You may have a strong product development background, but typically have minimal experience in hiring and leading team members and groups, or managing financials.
Thus my job as a small business advisor really is really more about getting you developed than perfecting the business. I found that role validated and highlighted in a new book, “Scale or Fail,” by Allison Maslan, who has built ten successful companies from the ground up, and consulted with many more in her current role as founder and CEO of Pinnacle Global Network.
I’m a total believer in her five phases of growth and evolution required before the founder can enjoy a successful and self-managed company, rather than being constantly stressed out, in crisis mode, and having no fun at all. Here is an outline of the stages that we both see:
- Envision, implement, sell, and manage every step. At this stage, I typically find a solo entrepreneur who creates, manages projects, directs, and oversees every step in the process. Here I often find that you need to seek and work with a co-founder who can complement your technical skills with financial and marketing to start the business.
For example, I knew Bill Gates back in the early startup days of Microsoft. In my view, Bill failed on an earlier project, despite being a technical visionary, before he teamed with Steve Ballmer, who was trained at Procter and Gamble on business and marketing.
- Recruit a bare-bones staff to follow your directions. You likely have hired a few helpers, such as an assistant, a social media coordinator, and a bookkeeper. You probably delegated a few things to keep these people earning their paychecks, but you are still reviewing and approving everything that comes in and out of your company.
I see this happening all the time, and in reality, it may be a necessary stage, while funding and other resources are in short supply. The challenge is knowing when to move on to the next stage before you kill yourself physically or mentally with the growing workload.
- Build a lean team to complement your strengths. By the time your business has really taken root, and you are preparing to scale, you need to be at this stage. Your skill in collaboration with the team, and creating systems and processes, becomes critical. Your priorities must also include communicating the vision, and leading team meetings.
If you require an investment for scaling, you need to attain this stage, with a prototype and an overall business plan, to assure credibility with investors. Be careful, as investors will also walk away if you spend too much money too early without the right discipline.
- Recruit the best talent and promote/train team managers. This is where you realize you need to start trusting others so you can remove yourself from the day-to-day tasks. You now need help, rather than helpers, who can not only do their job independently but can teach you the finer points of sales or finance, which may not be your strong suite.
In this phase of your personal and business transformation, your role must take on the strategy and challenges of scaling the business, including creating extended products, offering new services, or acquiring another company. The team must handle daily tasks.
- Lead and mentor team members to run all business areas. In this final stage, your business must scale successfully without you cloning or killing yourself. You must have superb leaders, as well as systems and processes that are efficient and constantly improving. All teams must be motivated and engaged by your leadership and mentoring.
This is the stage you have always envisioned, where you can sit back more and enjoy the fruits of your labor, and see the dream come to reality. I often find that happy founders at this level are ready to move on to their next venture or start investing in other startups.
In my experience, building and scaling your business will always turn into one of the wildest rides in your life but will leave you with an incredible sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, if you grow as the business grows. For these reasons, and despite the challenges, I find entrepreneurs to be among the happiest and healthiest workers on the planet. Feel free to join us.