What No One Tells An Entrepreneur About Breaking Through a Business Plateau

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Entrepreneurship is fun and exciting — until it’s not. 

There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s journey when you realize that the skills, abilities, industry knowledge, and personal know-how are no longer the right components to take your business to the next level. 

They served you well for a time. Finally, your entrepreneurial skillset got you to a point where you’ve survived the dreaded start-up phase, proven your business model, and are maintaining revenue. And yet, growth has stalled.

What do you do? 

Many entrepreneurs work harder. They invest more hours into their business. They worry about tomorrow. Stress and overwhelm punctuate their day.  Pushed beyond what is humanly possible, they develop a distaste for what they love. Why? 

They doubled down on the tasks, actions, and plans that got them to where they’re today, yet nothing seems to budge the numbers.  

What’s going on?!

One thing we know for sure — what got you here won’t get you there.

entrepreneur

Moving Beyond the Stall 

Unfortunately, every business passes through a somewhat predictable and unavoidable growth pattern. 

Stalls in growth generally occur around $250 – 350K, then around $750K to $1M, and approximately $3-4M.   

Several components contribute to a plateau. However, in most cases, it’s a combination of factors. For example, mindset, confidence in delegating, finding the right talent, and implementing the right strategy are only a few factors influencing the business’s evolution to the next level. 

Mindset 

A trusted colleague and friend once said, “If you can leave your business for three weeks and not have a drop in income, you have a business. However, if revenue grinds to a halt in your absence after a few days, you’re merely self-employed.” 

The collapsed definition between entrepreneur and solopreneur is a common dilemma, especially among professional service providers who launch their business based on their skill set. But, whether it’s your legal acumen, accounting, bookkeeping, human resources, training, or coaching skillset, there’s a limit to where your business can grow when you’re doing it all yourself. 

It takes a village — and often a crowbar — to dislodge a business owner from the day-to-day delivery of core services. 

Talent 

…and its evil twin, delegation.

Talent acquisition is a tricky area to maneuver for the entrepreneur. Often, one’s confidence in engaging talent, whether it’s through employment or subcontractors, is multi-faceted. 

Considerations include budget, cash flow, sourcing, and learning about an entirely new industry, human resources, with its many rules and ramifications. 

Primarily, however, is the entrepreneur’s ability to strap on a new skill set of locating, identifying, interviewing, onboarding, training, delegating, and most importantly, trusting the talent you’ve hired. 

Strategy 

Often we outgrow the strategy with which we have launched our organizations. Whether it’s the primary driver of profitability, a refinement in services you provide, or the core clients for whom services are delivered, when you begin to bump your head against the growth ceiling, an upgrade in your strategic approach to the future of your business may be necessary. 

Often, a niche within an industry holds a disproportionate percentage of the profit.

Growth plan

Growth plan? What’s that? 

Often our days are so packed full of fires that the notion of planning, even for a week, feels unachievable. And yet, the actions we take today will determine our tomorrow. 

Your growth plan doesn’t have to be complicated or sophisticated to redirect your efforts in the direction you want to take your business. Instead, a simple framework of what you want to achieve in the next 3-5 years with a detailed drill down for the next 12 – 18 months is most effective. 

Gone are the days when a detailed plan painstakingly developed over an extended period is of use. Instead, with business rapidly changing, you want to keep your plans flexible. 

Execution

You can’t execute on a nonexistent plan. I know it’s common sense, but it’s worth saying. 

The internet is full of tools, tips, and experts willingly sharing their know-how on how to be more productive and efficient. However, until your growth plan is on paper, information on improved efficiency might lead you down the wrong path – only this time more quickly. 

Execution is driven by your priority, revealed in your growth plan, and informed by data. 

Cash

Not much happens without it. The larger your organization grows, the more critical money becomes to finance your growth. Did you know Microsoft keeps a year’s operating expenses in the bank? 

“Growth sucks cash,” and “cash is the oxygen that fuels growth,” says Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t. 

Cash flow, budget sheets, profit and loss statements, balance sheets — I can hear the wheels of your brain grind to a halt. Don’t panic. Your accountant can help you understand your financial numbers and their impact on making strategic decisions. 

The Right Tool to Bridge the Here—There Gap

My Dad was a diesel mechanic in a small farming community in North Dakota. At the time of his retirement at age 65, he had amassed the most extensive equipment possible. He had tools for hay bailers, tractors, trucks, and combines. He also had specialized tools from various brands like John Deers, International Harvestor, and the occasional Case that wandered into his business. 

I doubt he secured all those tools and the accompanying skills to use them initially. But, over time and one by one, he added to his toolbox his understanding, his skill, and his business growth. 

Your situation is not unlike my Dad’s. 

And, like my Dad, you can start with identifying the best tool for the job and secure the intellect to apply it appropriately and strategically. 

Recognize that the work habits, beliefs, and attitudes — the tools that brought you to this precipice in your business are not the same set of equipment that will elevate your business to the next level.  

What got you here won’t get you there. 

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Testimonial

Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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