This was first published on Mark Schaefer’s blog, Businesses Grow. So if you’ve already read it there, it won’t hurt my feelings if you ignore me today.
Ah…the American dream. We all want to work for ourselves, in some fashion. If we work for The Man, it’s to have autonomy to do what we think best for the company. If we work for ourselves, it’s to have work/life balance and the flexibility to come and go as we please. But the ultimate American dream is to grow a business so we can make a gazillion dollars and have all of the joys of balance, doing what we think is best, and flexibility. Right? Wrong.
Growing a business is hard work. It’s the hardest work you’ll ever do. A lot of us start businesses because we’re really good at our trade and because we see value in doing things differently, but can’t affect change working for The Man. What we don’t realize is that, once you decide to grow a business, you no longer are good at your trade – you must become good at being a company grower. You don’t realize that you now work for many people – employees, clients, partners, and vendors. You don’t work for yourself. And figuring out how to grow a business is not an easy thing, unless you have some crack idea (Facebook) that catches on despite your lack of business acumen.
For the rest of us, however, designing business growth is just that – a carefully calculated plan. And, if you’re a typical entrepreneur, calculation, attention to detail, and planning are not in your vocabulary. You’re great at the big picture, innovative ideas, and leading people toward the vision, but you’re terrible at process, procedures, managing, and standards.
Which brings me to a growing pain I am experiencing right now at Arment Dietrich: Creating process and holding people accountable to the bigger picture. It’s very uncomfortable and completely out of my capability…which means it’s hard work. Really hard work.
Deep down I know that I’ve gotten the business to the size I can get it alone. I also know that to create sustainable growth that isn’t totally reliant on me, there have to be some standards of work that create consistency. And I know people just need to know what the expectations are so they can reach (or, ideally, exceed) them.
So why is this so darn hard?
Sure, it’s easier for me to fix a situation when a client is upset. Sure, it’s easier for me to write a strategy brief than to spend time coaching my team. Sure, it’s easier for me to find a new client to make up for the gap in our budget forecast. So, then, why do we have staff? Why am I growing a business that is sustainable and not reliant on me? Oh yeah…because easier doesn’t mean better.
So here I go. I’m holding people accountable. I’m following a carefully designed process for our staff meetings, for individual meetings, and for client meetings. I’m communicating over and over and over and over and over again our vision. I’m realizing this isn’t about Gini Dietrich, but is about the business. I’m empowering people to follow their ideas through to the end. I’m being totally transparent about our financials so everyone has a stake in the game. And, together, we’re going to grow this thing into a force to be reckoned with…no matter how hard or uncomfortable it makes me. The comfort will come as I continue on my journey of turning from a great communicator to a better company grower.