Have you heard of the Messy Middle? Few entrepreneurs don’t realize it’s their everyday experience until they read the description. Suddenly it clicks — “That’s me!” These savvy individuals can discern symptoms, identify pain points, and empathize with other businesses experiencing the same predicament. Arriving at this moment of clarity for oneself is a game-changer. It shifts the focus from chaos to clarity, empowering entrepreneurs to take action toward a more progressive outcome.
The Messy Middle vortex, or stage two of business growth and development, is the natural progression following establishing your start-up foundation. You’ve proven your business model. Your marketing and sales funnels are functioning beautifully and creating a consistent stream of clients for your business. You are growing your team in numbers and skill. Essentially, you have successfully ironed out many of the kinks associated with your start-up and have created some sustainability and resilience in your systems.
Even so, revenue can be sluggish, anywhere between $350,000 and $1 million annually, depending on your industry and service. Despite the expansion of your team, the talent pool looks cloudy. Cash flow is shrinking. And the worst part is being swamped with day-to-day operations when all you really want to do is focus on growing or scaling your business.
Extended work hours, once believed to be temporary, are now permanent and no longer sustainable. There is no time to think—let alone the time needed to think strategically. (A different thinking skill, BTW, requiring some white space.) The inadequacies of one’s growth system become increasingly conspicuous.
The chaos of the Messy Middle often forces businesses to abandon their successful tactics, including accountability, needed to grow. Business life becomes all about extinguishing fires.
So, let’s talk about accountability—what it is and why it’s crucial for an entrepreneur, especially at this stage of business growth, and the common misconceptions about accountability.
Entrepreneurs and Accountability to Success Tactics
Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” It refers to the responsibility and answerability of individuals or organizations for their actions, decisions, and outcomes.
For entrepreneurs, accountability is a slippery slope. Often strongly-driven entrepreneurs resist personal accountability. They often see it as a sign of weakness or failure. Or accountability can often be associated with micromanagement and excessive control, which stifles creativity and freedom.
And yet, in business, owner accountability is a crucial aspect of the growth process. It builds trust and credibility, promotes team engagement, enhances the business’s overall performance, and, most importantly, fosters a more disciplined approach to our decision-making. Holding ourselves accountable encourages critical thinking and helps us avoid impulsive decisions.
Navigating the Messy Middle: How Accountability Helps Tackle Challenges
I’ve touched briefly upon entrepreneurs’ challenges during the Messy Middle stage, where things can become chaotic. Clarity and focus provided by accountability, whether to oneself, a mastermind group, an accountability coach, or a system, are paramount for rising above the noise. And its effectiveness is multifaceted.
- Improved performance. Accountability promotes establishing clear goals and encourages entrepreneurs to strive for excellence, take consistent action, and achieve better results.
- Strategic decision-making. Rather than making ad-hoc or impulsive decisions, entrepreneurs committed to accountability gather the relevant information and weigh the risks and benefits to ensure their choices are intelligent and thoughtful.
- Enhanced trust and credibility. Stakeholders are more confident doing business with you knowing your word is your bond.
- Engaged employees. Someone said, “The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang.” Members of your team will often mimic your behavior. So, credibility builds when you do what you say you’ll do.
- Accelerated learning. Accountability encourages business owners to proactively address problems and challenges, which fosters accelerated learning and subsequent growth.
- Sustainable growth. Entrepreneurial accountability ultimately builds a culture of responsibility, transparency, and ethical behavior that ensures the business operates in alignment with its values, which leads to greater resilience and long-term success.
Accountability: The Final Word
Accountability, in some form, is essential for business success. Identify the method of accountability that best supports you and your business. Then, take the time to review your accountability measures regularly and adjust as necessary for maximum effectiveness.
You’ll be glad you did, as it will keep you on track and moving forward.
If you’re looking for accountability in your business, check out our Mastermind for the Messy Middle or contact us to discuss how to create a system of sustainable accountability for you and your business.