Where is your growth stuck?

Most business owners want to grow their business. They believe that their challenges are because they haven’t made it big yet.

And growth (as long as it’s profitable and healthy) does solve a lot of problems. But unfortunately, scaling your business generally isn’t as straightforward as it seems. In fact there are at least 4 major ways your business growth can be stalled – and the fix for each of those challenges is wildly different.

In fact, in just the last 2 weeks, I’ve talked with business owners who have each had one of these situations.

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4 Ways You Can Get Stuck when Scaling

Broken Sales or Marketing – The most obvious challenge for a business owner who wants to grow is when they aren’t attracting enough new customers. It’s pretty easy to tell that you just don’t have enough sales – maybe not even enough to stay afloat, much less grow.

But to make this even more challenging it can be difficult to figure out if your problem is marketing (not getting enough people in the door) or sales (not closing the deal). Is the problem with your messaging? Is it with your pricing or product? Do you have a bad reputation? Do you (or your team) not know how to consistently close a deal?

For the business owner I met this week, the problem was simply that she wasn’t get enough people in the door (marketing). It will take some trial and error, but her best bet for fixing the issue is to identify 2 or 3 marketing tactics that can (over time) consistently drive enough traffic / opportunities her way.

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Cash Flow Problems – Another fairly common bottleneck that business owners will run into is simply a lack of cash. This is especially true in certain industries where you have to spend money up front in order to start delivering what the customer wants. (Think construction – you win the bid to build something and immediately have to go out and buy materials or equipment, hire people, etc. and you may not get paid for weeks or even months later).

The tricky thing about this problem is that more growth actually makes this problem worse… at least until you have enough cash reserves (or access to inexpensive capital) to ride out the waves.

The business owners I met this week who have this challenge got forced into making some really expensive loans (high interest) just to keep the doors open over the last year or two and now they’re stuck with huge interest payments every month. Technically they’re making money (profit) but they are also burning through all of their cash every week and having a problem with making payroll.

The answer? They need to slow down, try to refinance the most expensive loans and take some time to pay down some (or most) of their debt before they can start scaling again. Frustrating, but do-able with some discipline.

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Delivery Issues – This impacts some industries and business models more than others. Examples would include a manufacturing company that’s maxed out on how much product they can produce, or a service company where all of their employees are fully staffed or utilized.

The business owner I met with last week who has this constraint needs people with very specific skills and experience. Currently he is either turning down work or trying to postpone jobs because every one he can find to do the work (including sub-contractors) are fully booked out.

If you want to continue growing when you have delivery issues, you either need to add more capacity (which can be risky if you aren’t sure the demand will stay the same) or find some other way to package or price the output to allow you to make more money with the same amount of effort.

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Leadership Deficiencies – The last kind of common constraint happens when the business owner (or the leadership team) is directly involved in every transaction. When this happens, growth is capped simply by the numbers of hours in the day. Think about the business owner who doesn’t trust anyone else to deal with clients – when that owner’s calendar is full, that business can’t grow.

Candidly we run into this kind of business all the time…

Theoretically the fix for this is easy – get the owner out of the critical path for delivering the products or services. Realistically that likely means a significant overhaul to how the work gets done (and who does it). Changes can be made, but it requires the owner to ‘let go’ of certain responsibilities and trusting that others can and will take over. Simple but not easy.

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What about your business? How is your business constrained? If you had to address one major type of challenge, which one would it be? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment below.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach

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