You can’t do it all

Posted by Tom LarsenMay 07, 2014 Operations, Organization, Planning 0 Comment

Many business startups (founders) wonder over time why their business has yet to achieve the level of success that their early efforts made seem so inevitable. Having been in that position myself, I came to learn a significant lesson and now have built an entire business around the awareness.

All new businesses are built on the hopes and dreams of the startup team or person. That typically means the founder(s) has conceived of and developed some product or service that resonates for a given group (the niche). Once conceived and developed, the founder contacts the first targets for converting the product or service to commerciality and succeeds in gaining some revenue from some of them. What happens next becomes the complicated structure that determines the future success of the business.

When the entrepreneur is confronted with success, these successes usually create additional support work of some type. An infrastructure becomes necessary to take care of the ongoing efforts to invoice, collect payments from the Customer and deposit it in the bank. In a consumer product business, this single action is complicated by the need to acquire the item to be sold, take an order from a customer, move the item from wherever it is to where the customer wants it and then do the steps above. Anyone can foresee the steps, however few can foresee the challenges when the scale begins to escalate. I never did.

When the first customer comes to the business (even on the internet), the founder supports that customer. When the customer makes suggestions, the founder listens. Almost from the outset, the founder is confronted with additional workload that is not increasing sales. This effort is operations. And because it is a necessary part of getting paid for the product or service, every founder needs to have a plan for how to implement, manage and make it scalable.

Interestingly, most don’t. Instead, they DIY or hire some person to wear a lot of hats, hoping that they will be self-managing. Eventually, that person hires someone else and the story plays out with hire after hire, distraction after distraction. As sales increase, so do the number of needs the business has and therefore the number of people needed to fill those needs.

After all the thoughtful effort put into the development of the product or services, to get it just right, and then have actual customers willing to pay actual money, it’s so tempting to simply hire the most capable person you can find who is coincidentally available at that time. And therein the cycle begins. I know, we did it unknowingly for quite a few years, which is why we have developed this business.

I don’t know how much sales we lost while working to accommodate all our growth internally. I know we had extended plateaus in sales during periods of operational expansion. Grow. Plateau. Grow. Plateau. We vividly saw the plateau, but, had no idea why. We thought it was the marketplace until many years later and we realized each sales growth spurt was followed by a plateau as we built infrastructure. Accommodating yesterday or today, we pulled our focus away from the growth efforts for tomorrow – Product Development, Marketing and Sales – that would fuel the longer term.

Each time we had to work to expand our operations infrastructure to accommodate a major customer, or a high performing sales person, or a successful trade show, we weren’t working on the new products, the marketing or the ongoing sales. There are only so many hours in a day or a week. The calendar waits for no one.

We created our new business to not only provide the vast, specialized experience we have in consumer products to young or new businesses, but, also to free businesses from having to ever take their focus away from what they created and making it marvelously commercial.

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