5 Ways to Stop Stunting Your Growth

Photo: HANA76

There are lots of resources and task lists to which an entrepreneur can subscribe if he or she wants to grow a business. But these five practices will often impede growth, even if you are doing everything you’re supposed to do to grow.

1. STOP Investing in Your Brand

Branding is about heavy, long-term investments into recognition and awareness that often takes years to generate a positive return. The biggest challenge of branding is that its short and long-term impacts on the business are often very hard to track except in an aggregate and often nebulous way. Branding is not wise for entrepreneurial companies. Getting new customers now, with quantifiable metrics that determine the costs to acquire those customers, is what entrepreneurs need.

A marketing, SEO, and social media consultant I know recently posted this question on Facebook: “When you're a start up you can't afford a real brand strategy. So, your logo becomes your brand and you build off that. Agree or Disagree?”

I agreed.

Most start-ups don't really have a handle on who their most valuable customers will be. They may have lots of theories and assumptions, but they don't really know until they go to market and get significant traction. As a firm tweaks and pivots, it only makes sense to invest in branding when they really understand the inner-workings and thoughts of their most valuable customers. Brand around that, and you'll succeed. Brand without that knowledge, and you'll most likely miss the mark.

2. STOP Planning in Your Office

Too many business owners stall in the planning phase. A new movement in entrepreneurship, centered on principles of lean start-ups and business model pivots taught by Steve Blank at Stanford, Nathan Furr at BYU, among others, teaches entrepreneurs to do their planning on the fly while they are talking to prospective and actual customers. “Get out of the office,” is a common theme in their content.

3. STOP Undermining the Authority of Your Managers

You’ve finally grown to a point where you can hire others to help you manage your business and employees. You have to resist the temptation to go directly to each employee with problems, concerns, and instruction. Regardless your intentions, you’ll likely end up cutting the legs out from under the manager to whom that employee reports. You can no longer behave as the founder on the top of the organization chart that has a direct line drawn to every employee in the company. If you do, you’ll lose your managers, confuse your employees, and stifle your growth.

4. STOP Attending Every Meeting

The need to attend every meeting is a sure a sign of a micro-managing entrepreneur.

You’ve hired smart people, so let them do what you pay them to do. This is easier said than done, especially since your employees will likely do things differently than you. If you want to grow, manage to results, not tasks, and empower your employees to get those results with as little input from you as possible. With all the time you’ve freed-up by stopping your attendance at several meetings, think how much more of your energy and focus can be directed to growing your company.

5. STOP Making Exceptions to Policy

Your company has identified a common problem and allocated significant time and resources to deliberate about it, solve it, and then issue a policy everyone must follow whenever that situation is encountered in the future. For example, after much debate, you decide your company will no longer offer advances to employees. But when you find a star player you want to hire who negotiates an advance when they start with the company, you are telling the rest of the company that you don’t support the policy. This behavior will erode the healthy culture you've worked hard to cultivate, which is a real barrier to growth.

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