What Pillars are holding you back?


picture by NCinDC 

I’m a big fan of models or metaphors as a way to discuss complicated ideas.  Anytime you can give someone a visual representation for a complex idea you’re a lot more likely to get your point across.

One model that I stole ran across recently is called the 8 Pillars of a Profitable Enterprise.  As a business coach, I’m always trying to figure out ways to focus (and get my clients to focus) on what the real constraints to their business are.  “We don’t have enough customers.” might be a true statement and could be a problem, but as a business owner you don’t have control over your customers.  You have control over your marketing message, how you deliver your product, how you handle your customers during their transactions – all of which could lead to a result of not having enough customers.

Enter the 8 Pillars model.

What do you think is holding you back?

By having a comprehensive, but straightforward model as the starting point for the discussion on what’s holding you back, we should be able to isolate some root causes that are constraining your business.

The 8 Pillars aren’t really 8 Pillars in the drawing – it’s 3 foundation components and 5 Pillars of growth.  However a problem with any of the 8 will drive to a bottleneck and a constraint to profitability…in other words, you are only as profitable as your weakest link allows you to be.

Let’s take a quick look at the different components:

Foundation Components

These go across all aspects of your business and a weakness here can really cripple the entire enterprise.  However an extremely strong foundation can make the growth pillars much stronger than they might be on their own and possibly make up for other weaknesses.


Leadership is about creating and communicating a compelling vision for your company and getting everyone rowing the boat in the same direction.  Without strong leadership, you will have poor performance best case and serious in-fighting and backsliding in the worst case.  However strong leadership can enable you to pull off some pretty amazing results.


Getting the right people into the right jobs is the single biggest driver to long term success.  If you have the right people, then you can figure out and fix a lot of other problems.  However with the wrong people – the ones that don’t really want to be there, aren’t really capable of delivering or just don’t understand what you’re all about, you’ll be lucky to have even moderate success in the long run (and you’ll hate every minute of it…).


Most business owners appreciate the need for systems – a good system will allow you to scale your business, incrementally improve your results by using process improvements and create a valuable enterprise that can be sold at much higher multiples than other similar businesses (because it’s repeatable).  Having said that, it takes a lot of discipline and focus to step away from the day to day fire drill and document and implement your systems.

Pillars of Growth

The remaining 5 pillars will directly impact profitability – if there is an issue with any one of them, it will constrain the overall output even if everything else is humming along.


Without a clear and successful strategy, you run the risk of leaving the outcome to chance or if it’s a poor strategy, then you will fail.  Creating a product that no one wants, trying to sell a quality product to the wrong people – both are examples of bad strategies that will cost you.


You could have the best product in the world, great delivery, superior salesman to close the deals, but if you don’t make people aware of what you have to offer and entice them to contact you, then you are going to limit your revenue and profitability.


Similar to marketing, you could have the best product or service ever, but if you can’t get people to buy it, then you’re not going to be making much money.


You’ve got money coming in (hopefully), you’ve got money going out and if you’re not careful you’ll end up with a negative balance on that equation, which can shut you down faster than almost anything else can.  If you don’t have the cash to pay your suppliers or your employees, you’re not going to be in business very long.


Delivery really encompasses getting the product or service to the customer as well as keeping the customer satisfied before, during and after the transaction.  Poor delivery or customer service may not impact profitability right away, but it will almost guarantee that you won’t get repeat sales or any positive word of mouth – and in the age of the Internet, bad news and good news travels very quickly.

Overall Evaluation – what’s your constraint?

Using this model as a way to evaluate where you are, should help you dig down to the root cause of your biggest constraints.  You may be doing very well overall, but if you can figure out that Sales conversion is your biggest constraint (plenty of people asking for the product, plenty of capacity to deliver it) then it may make a lot of sense to spring for some Sales training.

So what do you think is constraining your business?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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