Most businesses experience a plateau at some point in time — especially those in The Messy Middle. And, believe it or not, it’s somewhat predictable.
Stalls in business growth generally occur around specific revenue markers such as $350K – $500K, then around $750K to $1M, and approximately $3-4M. Why? That’s an excellent question and one that many entrepreneurs have battled to answer.
Over two decades of business coaching and strategizing with the Stage II enterprise revealed common components contributing to a plateau. In most cases, it’s a combination of factors unique to the entrepreneur and the enterprise.
There are some universal elements, however, impacting the majority of entrepreneurs who find themselves stuck in the messy middle.
Let’s take mindset, for instance. Do you quickly become overwhelmed by the day-to-day stressors of running a business so much that you shut down strategically? Or do you feel pessimistic about future possibilities?
Finding the right talent — not an easy feat in today’s competitive market — is another significant stressor for most entrepreneurs that often contributes to a sticking point in revenue growth.
One’s ability to delegate is another potential component. If you’ve identified the talent, are you comfortable entrusting tasks to others? How confident are you in your delegation skillset if you’ve functioned independently for any time?
Your rate of business growth, and a potential stall, are also influenced by your strategy. Strategy, in turn, affects pricing, impacting cash flow and ultimately determining your ability to invest in profitable growth. (For more details, read Scaling Up: How a Few Companies make it…And Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish.)
One thing we know for sure — what got you here won’t get you there.
The Conundrum of the Missing Growth Plan
The growth plan is perhaps the most crucial component in moving beyond any stall.
There is a prevalence of the glaring absence of a growth plan, so if your growth plan is unaccounted for, don’t waste time agonizing over it.
Growth and strategic planning are often a part of a successful business’s rise to success. Why? We have time on our hands to do the things most successful companies do.
As we grow, day-to-day operations quickly inundate and overwhelm us. For example, we get busy putting out fires. Plus, the number of hours we work leaves little time or energy for thinking clearly and strategically.
Often, critical elements of business growth are placed on the back burner for a point when we hope to have more time. But, sadly, it never comes.
Growth slows to a trickle until, finally, the business stalls. It plateaus.
That usually gets our attention. But, although it might be too late for a quick turnaround, it remains highly probable to gradually regain a resurgence in growth.
The Top 7 Questions to Craft Your Growth Plan
To address the commonly shared components contributing to a stall, as stated above, let’s consider how you may address each element. Although it’s not practical or professionally responsible to give you an exact blueprint for your business growth plan, given your unique enterprise, I can pose some questions for your thoughtful consideration as you design your plan.
Are you ready?
#1: What’s your exit strategy? When you’re ready to hand over the keys to the kingdom, what do you want to do with your business? Do you want to sell it or pass it on to a family member? Hand the keys to a long-term employee? (BTW, this happened to a client. He gifted his seven-figure business to a colleague. Nice boss!)
#2: Based on your exit plan, what do you want your business revenue to be in 3-5 years? Don’t wait until you’re near the end of your business career to decide. Starting today with a clear vision adds significance to other decisions to achieve your vision.
#3: What service(s) will you be offering? Again, when you’ve taken the long view, you may find that your current product or service offerings hamper your ability to hit your targets.
#4: What products or services are most profitable? As you consider the products or services that will most likely support your growth trajectory, you also want to consider what products or services are most profitable for you to deliver.
#5: What client or customer is most profitable for you to serve?
And, while you’re at, identify the clients or customers that are most enjoyable to work with for you and your team.
#6: What talent is required now that you precisely understand offerings and clients? Will support talent be needed to achieve your growth numbers effortlessly? You will, after all, no longer be “doing it all” as you move things off your plate to that of others to free you up to focus on the strategy.
#7: What costs are involved in your growth projections? First, consider the cost of your labor and operating expenses. A reasonable estimate of business expenses ensures your service is priced for profit and cash flow.
It’s a lot to take in at one time, I know! Again the questions posed here are generally designed to trigger your creative thinking.
As you begin drafting your growth plan, avoid adding too much detail to your long-term plan. Not only is it overwhelming, but, as we often learn, the business economy and marketplace change quickly. Focusing your attention on the next 12 – 18 months will allow you to regain control of your growth.
Uninterrupted time to think, draft, and design your growth plan is a luxury. However, if you effectively use the cracks of time (like during our Mastermind 350), you can create your entire plan one piece — one micromovement — at a time.