Growing a business in today’s economy requires change and an ability to adapt, particularly where behaviors are concerned. You just cannot continue to operate the way you have in the past and expect to take the company to the next level.
Running a mature and dynamic operation requires a different set of skills than starting a business, and many entrepreneurs find it tough to adjust. As businesses grow, they typically get stuck at two levels: around 10 or 15 employees and around 75 employees.
At both of these sticking points, it becomes necessary to introduce a new management environment with a new set of systems and procedures. The entrepreneur must let go of how he or she managed in the past -- making every decision, for instance -- and adopt a much more hands-off management style.
We were helping an entrepreneur in the travel technology business. The firm had been in operation for just over eight years. Sales were around $1 million, but flat.
Since day one, the owner had been the firm’s only real salesman. This arrangement may have worked at the beginning, but as the firm grew, the owner inherited more and more responsibilities, including managing his 12 employees. He spent almost all of his time working in the business rather than working on the business. With sales efforts falling off, the company was suffering.
When I encouraged him to bring in an assistant who could help with the operational details or hire a new sales person, he just could not do it. Bringing in someone new would mean he would have to let go of his old behaviors, relinquish management of the minutia and focus on the tasks that would help the business expand.
We had many, many discussions with this entrepreneur to show him how his behaviors were keeping the company from achieving its full potential, but convincing him was tough. He had seen his behaviors work well when he started the company and was sure they were working still.
In light of the entrepreneur’s resistance, we finally just had him try making small adjustments to his management style -- delegating more and the like. He was more tolerant of these small changes, and after seeing the success he was having, he was more willing to try our other suggestions. Little by little, the entrepreneur implemented all the necessary changes and his company is doing much better.
Now go out and see if your behaviors are limiting your company’s growth. If they are, consider making the changes that will help take your operation to the next level.
Jerome S. Osteryoung, director of outreach services at the Jim Moran Institute in the College of Business at Florida State University, can be reached at 850-294-7478.