Growing My Business Too Fast Caused Me to Redefine Growth

Rate this post

When I started my leading communications company Pencil or Ink, I knew that growth was key. Growth in revenue to support me, growth in customer list for more credibility and staff growth, because it meant a small business growing into a big one.

Fast forward three years. He had a long list of clients, a healthy income, and a new employee.

Externally, it had grown.

Internally, he had reached a major crisis. Growing up by hiring meant investing a lot of time and money in the development of my new colleague instead of doing the job that was best for him. Growing my client list could have meant more revenue, but my profits (and free time) were dwindling to zero.

If that was growth, I wasn’t sure if it was for me.

In the end, I realized that some of the assumptions I was making about growth just aren’t true for every business. These are some of the myths I once believed in and how I have redefined growth since then to create a truly successful business on my own terms.

Myths I believed about growth

Looking back (what is that expression about retrospect?), There were several ideas I had about the growth that led me down this path.

Myth 1: Growth requires saying yes to everything

At first I said yes to every job, even if it was only tangentially related to what I wanted to do. I also said yes when clients were contacted to ask if I could offer multiple coaches or workshops simultaneously, services I had not previously offered.

It felt good. “People seem to value what I do!” I said to myself. I also thought those bird projects by hand were written GROWTH. And income was flowing, even though I was careless about pricing and often charged too little.

But he was playing a game of hours. Mine filled up, which at first seemed like a victory, but it wasn’t a victory, especially at the rates I charged.

I realized that by saying yes to everything, I was actually saying no to better opportunities, as well as to reconciling work and family life that I set out to achieve. He was also trying to compete with bigger companies he just couldn’t compete with, for projects he didn’t necessarily want in the first place. Saying yes to everything seemed like a growth move, but I soon found myself with less and less time to devote to the work I enjoyed doing the most.

Myth no. 2: Growth means hiring instead of doing the job yourself

I hired someone to take on a role that I thought would help grow the business, but actually reduced it. I spent hours training the person to do the kind of work they did with the client. Hours became weeks, weeks became months. As a result, I had even less time to work with clients.

Our margin shrank. “Things will get better,” I told myself.

Our margin disappeared, “Soon this will be a net profit for the business,” I said.

I stopped paying myself. “Hmm,” I said.

The cash flow challenges were difficult. But perhaps most importantly, I had lost what I loved about running my small business: relative autonomy, a sense of purpose, and the enjoyment of loving what I do.

I still thrived with every minute of client work, but my space was no longer mine. He devoted himself to developing a colleague, reassuring customers, and fearing for the future of a business he had worked hard to build. Clients wanted to work with me, not someone with less experience and a completely different approach.

Not that hiring can ever be a good growth strategy. But looking back, I could have focused on clients, considered the broader strategy, and hired an assistant to free myself to do more of these two things.

Myth no. 3: Growth means never going back

Since I had made a splash to grow, I suspected that any sign that my business was not growing could be badly reflected in my team and leadership. It was awkward to give voice to these challenges. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I had failed, but I was slow to do anything about it.

When I finally found the courage to speak up, however, my advisors and clients supported me and lined up: it was time to make a change and rebuild the business from the ground up. And more than a few pointed out something that I have no problem seeing in others but that I have not been able to see in myself: that being left with a bad situation to save face is always worse than treating it face to face .

What I now understand about growth

After making the painful and late decision to let the employee go, things got better. Almost overnight. In the three wild years since then, here are the new growth beliefs I have adopted.

Growth is not measured by the number of projects or employees

Instead of re-hiring, I switched my business from an agency model to a consultancy. A one-woman operation with a part-time administrative assistant.

I also pledged to stop saying yes to everything and start perfecting what I would take on: leadership coaching, team workshops and off-site facilitations. Anything else, I mean.

In doing so, I have made sure that my approach and experience are perfect for the task, that clients know exactly how I can support them, and that I am fully invested in every commitment of clients, for mutual benefit. Instead of equipping someone to do what I love, I can now do it myself and delegate distractions.

Since then, I’ve grown both my income and my profits exponentially, and I take home three times what I earned in my last job. I don’t miss the irony: what I thought would make the business shrink is what made it grow. Reducing staff was the first step in this high-growth trajectory: impact growth, revenue and customer satisfaction.

I have also grown my time. Ever since I made these changes and set my own course, I’ve had some “leftovers”. (In quotes, as it is full of family, teaching part-time, serving on a few boards and a pandemic-born running habit.)

Growth can be about doing a job on purpose, not all the work

Having regained my head time and space, I set myself free to figure out the purpose and strategy. If it wasn’t “growth”, what was it?

I had a light bulb moment: when they approached me to offer training, workshops or facilities, I always asked why. A trend has emerged: companies are not looking for a coach. They are not even looking for a facilitator. They seek to improve their cultures. To address the human side of their strategy. Coaching and facilitation are just the means.

I realized that my job was not to provide a set of specific services; was to help organizations address their cultures to fulfill their strategies. With this purpose in mind, I have been able to refine how I do it, offering tailor-made approaches for each organization. For a client, it can be a company-wide culture analysis and specific workshops. On the other hand, it could be an individual training for influential leaders. I was even paid to write about workplace culture and was interviewed by the New York Times about office communication.

Today, my entire business is referrals or previous clients. And most of all, few of the latter are from the time I had an employee and I said yes to everything; rather, almost all of them are from periods when I have focused on my purpose and doing what I believe. do better. Instead of acting as an occasional coach or facilitator for organizations, I am a partner who connects the points between people, culture, and strategy. Reformulating my services has helped me create a purposeful business i a sustainable one.

Growth doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s

When launching a business like Pencil or Ink, it was tempting to invest in a coaching accreditation. “Every other coach has one,” I reasoned, “and it’s a shortcut to credibility.” But having trained internally as a coach in a previous company and having accumulated hundreds of hours of experience in leading companies, I wasn’t sure this was the right path for me. This was born when a long-term client said, “You’re not ‘every other coach’, Ellie.”

Today, with the benefit of hindsight, I know I was right: clients don’t hire me because they want any coach, facilitator, or consultant, they hire me because they want someone who understands culture and strategy, has a successful track record. , and that they approach their whole self to the task.

So instead of looking around at what everyone else is doing, I started looking for professional development opportunities that were right for me. I ended up studying Organizational Leadership at Saïd Business School at Oxford University, and I deepened my understanding of the challenges that leaders face, gaining a mastery of strategy and expanding my set of cultural tools. .

Education in and out of the classroom has changed lives. But there’s been a coda I could never have predicted: business school recently approached me to teach part-time strategy and innovation, along with my role in Pencil or Ink. This was beyond my wildest dreams when I first launched the business in the midst of the fog of postpartum depression, let alone when I was struggling with the ladder.

By saying no to some opportunities, perfecting my purpose and focusing on impact, I have built something that I am proud of.

And if that’s growth, I’m just getting started.

Source link

Leave a Comment