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Planning to Scale Your Business? Don’t Do These 7 Things.

Blog: Ontraport - Business Automation

As Founder/CEO and President of Ontraport, Landon Ray and Lena Requist have a unique vantage point to observe the state of entrepreneurship. Being at the helm of a company that serves thousands of entrepreneurs each year gives them a priceless perspective on what’s working and what’s not working in the world of small business. Add that to years experience scaling startups for major growth (Lena) and 10 years growing Ontraport from a few engineers in a backyard yurt into a company with over 100 employees (Landon), and you’ve got some pretty fascinating insights on the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make while trying to scale.

Here are seven mistakes that Landon and Lena want more entrepreneurs to avoid in order to create more successful businesses. If you find yourself doing any of these seven things, it might be time to take a step back and create a better strategy for scaling your business.

1. Creating a Job Instead of Creating a Business

Some entrepreneurs think they can work their way to a successful business by working harder. To make their venture take off, they’re willing to work their tails off from dawn to dusk. However, Landon is pretty convinced that all this does is create a job — not a business.

“There’s no possible way that you are going to achieve your vision of freedom, financial abundance, and fulfillment by answering more phone calls, handing out more business cards, making another appointment, or working longer hours,” he wrote. “The very best possible outcome down that road is that you’ll create a job for yourself.”

It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you don’t also work smart. Instead of focusing on doing more work, focus on building the systems and processes that will eventually do it for you.

2. Working on Everything BUT Your Passion

Why did you get into business in the first place? We bet it wasn’t so you could do routine tasks that you hate spending time on. But after becoming an entrepreneur, it’s all too easy to end up taking on the many mundane responsibilities that must be taken care of to keep your business running, meanwhile losing sight of the vision that motivated you to start your own venture in the first place.

“I hear this all the time,” says Lena. “You are not working on your passion. You’re doing accounting; you’re doing invoicing; you’re doing sales; you’re doing customer service; you are doing everything but your passion.”

Go for too long without chasing that passion, and before you know it you’ll be wondering, “Why bother?” It’s important not to lose sight of what matters — focus on doing the thing for which you got into business in the first place.

3. Missing the Difference Between Delegating Responsibility and Abdicating It

If you have a team working for you, you have a chance to delegate some of that hard work to them — but a big mistake many entrepreneurs make is to pawn off responsibility for these day-to-day responsibilities without understanding them or documenting the processes to complete them.

Landon explains what can happen if you take this risk: “One day, your employees come to you and say they’ve gotten another job offer for twice the money. You panic. You can’t afford to pay them that much, but you also can’t imagine running your business without them. You literally don’t know how to do their job. You realize that your employees have you over a barrel. You have to pay them double and beg them to stay or risk having your business fall apart. You have just learned — like almost every entrepreneur before you — the difference between delegating responsibility and abdicating it.”

Similarly, if specific instructions for carrying out each of your processes are all in your head, you’ve created a business which depends solely on you. If you’re the only one who knows how to do things the right way the first time (and every time), you can’t delegate anything.

In both of these scenarios, the resolution is to document, build and understand the processes that your business uses.

4. Making Excuses for Not Building Systems

“Every entrepreneur I’ve ever worked with has excuses for not building systems,” says Lena.

Maybe it’s because they’re ‘creatives,’ or they don’t have time, or they insist that things should happen differently every time. These are all excuses, Lena says, and none of them are a good enough reason not to create systems.

“How do you actually produce remarkable experiences at scale? Well, it’s about creating systems and processes that work and are improved by great people who care,” says Lena.

Introducing smart systems into their businesses is one of Lena’s most important lessons that entrepreneurs need to be effective leaders, and it’s the reason she’s focused so much of her time and efforts teaching business owners to develop the skills.

And Landon agrees. As he sees it, “Designing and improving your business systems is the only path you can count on that will inevitably lead to success.”

Landon says that by creating systems that the team can use to get work done without counting on you to manage all of the ins and outs, you can create time for yourself to focus on the jobs that only you can do.

5. Automating Bad Processes

While we do suggest automating the repetitive tasks in your business, Landon and Lena caution entrepreneurs not to rush into automating any process without being confident that it’s a good process.

“Even at Ontraport, we don’t dive headlong into automating a process without thinking things through,” Landon wrote. “After all, automating bad processes is a quick way to turn out a lot of poor experiences. If it’s at all possible, before we turn over anything to the robots, we first do things manually. A lot can be learned by getting your hands dirty for awhile. Then, once we’ve figured out what the ideal process is, we map it out.”

Although automation improves consistency, a process that produces consistently bad results just isn’t worth it. It ends up leading to poor customer experiences, unhappy employees and even more chaos than you were experiencing prior to implementing the process.

6. Not Analyzing and Improving Your Business Over Time

The great thing about introducing automation to your business is that even when you have automated a less-than-ideal process, you can always change it. If you’re doing things the same way every time, it becomes much easier to spot weak points, measure results and implement change.

According to Landon, “Because our business is built on systems and backed by automation, researching and changing things is easy. For example, I recently noticed that our sales team wasn’t getting ahold of as many people who requested demos as I thought they could. So, I took a day to review the process and noticed some specific steps in it that I thought we could improve, and within a couple days, we’d doubled the number of conversations we were having with prospective clients.”

This kind of constant iteration is crucial to building a sustainable business and is only possible because there was a system, backed by automation, that could be reviewed and improved.

7. Going Overboard With Complicated Systems and Processes

One more word of caution about getting carried away with systems and processes: It’s important to never stop asking whether the way you’ve chosen to do things is truly the best way.

“One of the things we’ve learned about building systems is that sometimes there can be too much of a good thing,” Landon says. “Well-intentioned and diligent people get busy adding to and extending processes to avoid breakdowns (real or anticipated) and, over time, something that was simple and effective can begin to look like the Winchester Mystery House. These byzantine systems pile upon one another, and pretty soon you find yourself asking for TPS reports and wondering what happened to your soul.”

Even though systems and processes are valuable assets for your business, it’s important to never let the human element escape. Instead, check in on older processes to make sure they’re still serving you and your customers well. Ask for feedback from your team members, and get their suggestions for continuously improving them over time.

The post Planning to Scale Your Business? Don’t Do These 7 Things. appeared first on The Ontraport Blog.

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