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How to ensure sustainable growth for your services business

I’m sorry to tell you this, but I think the problem might be you…. You’re too good at what you do. The company revolves around your leadership, your ideas, your decisions – and customers all want to see you and want your expertise and deliverables. That’s great and that’s probably how you managed to get this far – but now the business has grown, and you’re a bit older, you might find that you’re rushing around a bit too much, handling too many emails and calls. You’d like to get at least a little time out so you can think about strategy, look at the longer term, work out what happens when you decide to stand back a bit. You might be thinking about selling the business, so that someone else can take it on to the next level and you can capitalise on what you’ve built. But everyone needs you, all the time! And how can you grow any more when you personally are already feeling maxed out?

The answer lies in hard-wiring or encoding what you do and making it something that others can replicate. Sure, they won’t be as good as you at first, and you’ll be doing lots of QA – but you will start to see others replicating what you’ve been doing, in the way you would want. If you do it right, you’ll probably have an uneasy sense of no longer being central and critical to everything – and to be fair, that’s something you need to consider before you set off down this path. Yes, the business will probably grow; yes, you may be able to step back and gather your thoughts; yes, you could start to get back into golf/cycling or whatever you wish you could do if the phone would stop ringing. But you might start to feel a bit less essential. You may feel you’re stepping off the all-powerful leader’s pedestal. It’s your call. Note that hanging on does bring its own risks though – can you maintain growth and be competitive as the world gets more sophisticated and new disruptive entrants nibble away at what used to be your market and clients? And what will happen when you finally step back – will you just wind it up and lock the doors on the way out? It probably won’t be an attractive acquisition if the heart of the business is all down to you and you’re off to put your feet up.

If you do decide to hard-wire what you do, then may I share some pointers based on my experience in my own business, and based on what I see in organisations I’ve worked with?

1. Be clear and precise on what your business does, as that’s what you’ll need to hard-wire

2. Plan time to document what you do, your processes, the things that you personally do that make customers want you there doing what you do. This isn’t the same as your wider finance, HR, supply etc business processes

3. Tell everyone that’s what you’re doing and why – which may be to have time to plan future strategy, to work less hard, or to accelerate scale and growth

4. Teach and mentor those who will be delivering on your behalf. Monitor, feedback, support. And enhance the model with their great ideas at every opportunity

5. Be single minded about following the model. Do not let people do their own thing! Consistent adoption is vital – and needs lots of effort and motivation (lots of carrot and hopefully little stick). STICK TO IT

It’s not easy, but it is so important and makes such a difference! If I can help you to do this, or be your voice of accountability, then please just get in touch.

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