Growing any business is hard. Sustaining that growth over time is even harder. You have to contend with new competitors, market dynamics, employees leaving and the law of large numbers, among other things.
If it hasn’t happened already, sooner or later your business will hit a plateau and growth will slow. Even if you just factor in the law of large numbers, you can’t keep growing at 100% or 200% year-on-year forever — it just doesn’t happen, despite the rosy picture the media paints for unicorns like Uber, Airbnb, Zenefits and others.
The slow down in growth might happen over a few months, or it might happen over a few quarters. And it will make you feel like crap if you let it. Missing a growth target and not knowing WHY you couldn’t grow as planned is the hard part.
If you understand why you missed the target, it’s easy to course correct and get on with it. But for first-time CEOs that honestly don’t know how to keep growth going, there are 4 very specific things you can focus on to restart your growth and that’s what I want to cover here for you today.
Every company goes through 4 predictable phases of growth. They are:
- Startup: $0 — $1M revenue
- Getting Ready To Scale: $1M — $10M revenue
- Scaling: $10M — $50M revenue
- Enterprise: $50M+ revenue
At each phase there are a handful of things to focus on that will keep you growing. For example, in the startup phase it’s all about finding and establishing product-market fit. Once you find product-market fit, you’ll blitz past the $1M revenue mark.
For startups in phase 2, it’s all about planning out your team and deciding who you’ll hire to take over functional responsibility for strategy, hiring and day-to-day operations from you. When you have 35 direct reports (like I did back in 2009), you can’t do anything well, so you need to hire great leaders who you can delegate to and partner with.
[ You may also go through – Indian Entrepreneur Success Stories ]
These are just two examples of strategies that can help you 1) understand the current phase your business is in and 2) help you move through that phase and into the next one. My point is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to kick start growth again. There are many companies that have grown from where you are to where you want to be — you’ve just got to figure out the handful of things they did to keep growing and copy them.
A few hours of research on Google and Quora as well as a few calls on Clarity.fm will help you figure out exactly what to do.
That leads to modeling, which is a concept Tony Robbins talks about a lot. It basically means that you find someone who has done what you want to do and you model (or copy) how they did it. What took them 10 years to figure out, they can teach you in a few weeks or months, therefore helping you shortcut the time and avoid most (if not all) of the mistakes they made along the way.
That’s why so many first-time founders get coaches, advisors or build a great board. These are people who have “seen the story” and can teach you what to do and what to avoid.
For me, the modeling concept has changed my life both personally and professionally. I used to believe that “I’m the CEO, so I have to figure everything out on my own. I don’t need help!”. Boy was that a mistake.
When I got my first coach back in 2007, my business at the time grew from $3M to $6M revenue in one year. Without a coach we probably would’ve grown from $3M to $4M, so the impact was huge.
Why reinvent the wheel when other people will happily teach you how they did it? That’s now my motto every time I want to learn something new. I find someone who is top 1% in the WORLD at that particular skill and I either hire them to coach me, I buy their courses, read their books or watch their videos. And modeling works every single time.
Founders and CEOs get a disproportionate amount of credit for the success of their companies. Think about Richard Branson (Virgin), Travis Kalanick (Uber) and Bill Gates (Microsoft). They were most definitely instrumental in defining and driving a strong vision and being the face of their brands, but they also hired incredible, incredible people to work for them.
If you haven’t already, you’ll soon realize you’re only good at (and like) a few things. To kick start growth and sustain it over the long term, you need to hire leaders who are better than you in their area of expertise and let them run. Give them the freedom to set their own strategy (which you of course approve), hire their teams and do what they do best.
One of the best lessons I ever learned was when I hired my first Vice President to run an entire department of about 40 people. He was expensive at about $250,000 per year plus equity, but during his first 12 months he transformed his department from one of a scrappy startup into one that could scale indefinitely and bring in 5x more revenue.
Most founders (myself included) leave it way too long to hire a great management team. They say it’s too expensive, too hard to find great people and too hard to trust them when they’re hired. I learned first hand that’s a mistake.
Stick to what you’re good at and hire people to own everything else. That’s the fastest way to double, triple or even quadruple your revenue over the next year.
Great leaders aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. They’ve “seen the picture” before. And the best leaders will even bring with them previous employees who love working for them, so they can come with their own team that’s hungry, excited and ready to go.
The words you say to yourself every day determine how far you’ll go in life. It sounds simple, but if you believe you can do something, you’ll do it. If you don’t believe you can, you won’t.
How you see yourself as a founder, CEO or leader determines how other people see you and whether they want to work for you. Can you inspire someone with your big vision to change the world? Do you believe in yourself enough that other people will too, or can they see through your veneer and sense your self-doubt and nervousness?
The only way to build a great company is to start with your own mindset, psychology and self-belief. You can hire great people but they won’t stick around for very long if they sense you’re always doubting yourself and aren’t absolutely determined you’re the right person to lead.
A great example I’ve written about previously (and that I talk about in the video below) is when I was 23 and had to hire managers who were 45 and 50 years old. I was CEO and they reported directly to me, but I felt a bit uneasy managing them and sometimes telling them what to do because they were twice my age, so I had to work on that.
I used coaches to help me understand that age doesn’t matter — it’s how you communicate, your confidence and your ability to lead by example that does. Once I understood that, I quickly stopped caring about age — both mine and theirs, and got on with running and growing my company, which today is heading towards $100M in revenue.
If you don’t currently believe in yourself and your ability to run and continue to grow your company you, should start by improving your mindset. Find a coach. Read books. Learn how other people in similar situations got the confidence and belief to get to the next level and ask them how they did it. I can help you with that.
[ Also read – Don’t spend anything on marketing until you’ve read this. ]