Overworked, Overstressed, Too Busy to Get Organized – How to Transform a Growing Business

Overworked, Overstressed, Too Busy to Get Organized – How to Transform a Growing Business

I can see it coming. Maybe I’m developing a sixth sense for it. I run an operations management business and I regularly get calls from business owners saying; “I need your help. My business is taking off and I feel like I’m losing control”. The first question I ask always seems to be the toughest for them… When can we get together to talk? I’ve learned to anticipate that they will cancel one or two appointments before we’re actually able to meet. I plan for our first meeting to be away from their office so I am able to get their full attention.

Their business has typically been operating for three to five years, which means their business model is working for them and has begun gaining traction. They’ve passed the infant mortality point where many new businesses fail and have had some taste of success. They’re now at the point where they’re starting to think about taking their business to the next growth plateau.

The business operates in a mostly ad hoc mode. Up to this point they’ve managed to keep things on track by shear force. They’re beginning to realize that they can’t do everything themselves and they continue to hold things close because they feel they have to maintain control by personally making every decision. They’re not willing to delegate anything but the most trivial tasks. “My entire life is tied up in this business and it’s succeeding because of the energy I put into it.” They have in fact become the operations infrastructure of their business and they’re beginning to realize that they have now become the primary constraint on the growth of their business. Take a vacation, a sick day, a coffee break… Not likely!

Transforming these businesses requires an objective look at two areas: their organization and their operations. I start slowly by trying to find some activities the owner is willing to offload to others.

Businesses at this point in their development are usually organized on the “Conestoga Model”, meaning their organization chart looks like a wagon wheel. It’s a person centric organization model where the owner has become the hub of the wheel with all of the other functions circling around the hub. They may have made some attempt to change things themselves but I often find they were unsuccessful because they delegated responsibility without being willing to also delegate the authority to do the job.

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