When he was starting his business, my father told me to be careful of success. His rationale was, if you’re really successful, how do you step out of the business? You might get stuck in that business forever.
In my father’s case, he was in Europe, so if his business was successful and he didn’t have an exit plan, he would be stuck there for the rest of his life. Given that he wanted to retire in the US, he knew he needed to have an exit plan.
In order for my father to come up with an exit plan, he had to learn some new skills. In order to learn some new skills, he had to stop jumping into different operations roles when it came to the day-to-day running of the business. He had to stop putting on all the hats and finally just put on one: the CEO hat.
The Only Hat That Matters
If you have a sense that the skills it takes to run the business aren’t necessarily what it takes to grow your business, you are likely very busy working in the business and tied down to that work, rather than overseeing the work. As we’ve discussed several times in this series of articles, too much investment in the tactical, day-to-day operations leaves no time for long-term strategy. This leaves you lacking in your future vision and certainly without an exit plan.
While you can wear all the hats (and kudos to you for being able to jump into any role in your business), unfortunately that is not what’s going to help you grow your business to the next level.
By staying trapped in this blind spot, you’re limiting the opportunities available for growth.
You’re unable to take time to research other markets that might be viable for your product. You aren’t thinking about whether or not there are other compatible products you could be offering to increase sales.
Let’s say you have a lemonade stand at the end of your road in your neighborhood, and you know all your neighbors by a first name. It’s easy to sell to them, right? But, as the lemonade-stand owner, are you doing any kind of strategic research on what customers you might have in a different market, like the beach down the road from you? And would the type of people that go to the beach also be willing to buy your lemonade? What other products would those customers be willing to purchase?
Taking time to think about these things is just one of the skills you need to grow your business. And while you probably know this, what you may not know is why you aren’t doing it.
Maybe it’s not so much about taking the time to determine products as not understanding the skills you need to put some of the growth strategies into place. You know your market and you know the people who are buying from you and what they like, so you offer them another product, only to find it’s a little more difficult because now you are selling new products to two existing markets.
Without the requisite skills in place, you may not realize that doing this is just as hard as putting your existing products into a new market. You know how to make lemonade, but you don’t know much about people who go to the beach.
This means you have to do research; and now you’re back to square one, where you don’t have time to do research because you’re too caught up in daily operations. Meanwhile, you’re attempting to expand using a hard growth strategy and failing to understand the work it will take to make it successful.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
The difference between strategic and operational skills is bigger than most business owners understand at first. The skills you need for growth are different than those you need to run a business, it’s true. But how can you even start cultivating the right skillset if you don’t know what it entails?