Why Founders Fail To Grow Their Business

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Lucy Bloomfield

Hello, Starter Story readers! It is fantastic to be back on this blog for another guest post.

In case you have no idea who I am (likely), my name is Lucy Bloomfield and I had a sheet mask/skin care brand called Trefiel. Starter Story interviewed me earlier this year about what I did to grow Trefiel from 0 to 10,000 customers in 18 months, with a 40% return customer rate.

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When my business partner and I decided to shut the company down and work on other projects, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t done with business. I really do believe that commerce and capitalism have the power to change the world in a positive way, it just needs to be pushed in the right direction.

So I decided to stay in business and have an active part in how new and more established businesses practice. I do this with my consultancy, Business 2iC.

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When I was chatting to Pat about the best way to approach a second blog post with Starter Story, I realised that the most value I could bring you as a reader of this blog is what I teach and help my early-stage clients with - growth strategy.

You’re a reader of Starter Story so I know you see the same stories I see on here and think “Why is that not happening in my business?”. After reading this blog for almost a year, I see distinct patterns in businesses who are successful. I also see distinct patterns in businesses who aren’t successful, because they’re coming to me to help them grow.

These are the four most common reasons business owners aren’t able to successfully grow their companies:

  1. They spread themselves too thin by choosing too many channels to grow their business on
  2. They spend too much time on tasks that don’t matter, like prioritising their emails.
  3. They choose the wrong channels for their target demographic.
  4. They use only organic marketing methods and wonder why they’re not seeing paid advertising results.

Hands up if any of those sound like you?

Me too.

How you need to think if you want to grow your business

Even though I teach and implement growth strategy with early-stage businesses, I know each and every one of those points above intimately, because they’re the exact same mistakes that I made in my first company.

Believe it or not, recognising your mistakes is great because now you can go through the process of learning to think about and act for growth, which is what I’m going to be teaching you in today’s blog post.

To teach you this, I’m going to be sharing my internal process for thinking about and mapping out growth, usually reserved for my clients only.

You’re in for a treat.

Here is how you create a growth strategy that works for your company:

  1. Mapping out your ideal success, goals and KPIS
  2. Selecting the fastest and most efficient routes/channels to that success
  3. Developing a strategy to succeed on those channels
  4. Creating a roadmap (prioritising when we implement the steps and in what order)
  5. Making the best use of your time to work efficiently.

Now you know my secret formula, you should be fine to go back to your business and build it easily and swiftly… just kidding.

Let’s talk about each section more so you can do that.

Step 1 - Mapping out your ideal success, goals and KPIS

Defining your ideal success

I’ve found that most people start a business because they have an ideal lifestyle they’d like to have which they hope the business will help them travel to. I think this is the wrong way to think about a business.

If your dream is to be financially independent and retire early, then a business can be a great way to do that, but it’s certainly not the easiest way to do it, or the safest way.

Business has inherent risk attached to it, at any given point of the business’ lifecycle.

Choosing to start a business really needs to have the end goal of creating impact or solving a problem. The scale at which you do either or both of those end goals is dependant on what you want the business to look like.

So, when defining your ideal success for a company you’re wanting to start, make that ideal success about the company… not what you want your future home to look like.

Setting goals that align with your vision of success

Once you have an idea of what you’d like your business to look like eventually, the next step you need to take is setting goals that help you move your work and effort in the right direction.

I’ll use the example of my consultancy for this post so you can follow along with my thought process. I started Business 2iC because I want to build a machine that allows me to run other business ideas I have through it.

What does this mean my goals will be?

  1. I need to create a consultancy that can take care of most of the areas I’m going to need in the future… meaning I need to know what businesses I want to put through my consultancy eventually.
  2. I need to hire people who are specialists in those services and areas of business, people who I trust enough to give them my businesses to work on without supervision.
  3. I need to build a streamlined, modular business that I can hire someone else to run and manage over the long-term.
  4. I need to build a profitable service business that generates enough capital to fund my other business ideas.

Seems really simple right? A lot of people struggle to set goals that help them achieve what they want to, so if that’s you please don’t beat yourself up.

When you’re thinking about your goals and how you can set them to achieve your ideal success, think about what needs to happen so you can easily manage and maintain a business that looks like your end goal.

Here are some example questions that I ask my clients:

  • How much money do you need to make to sustain your end goal?
  • What will you be working on in your business when you arrive at your end goal?
  • What parts of your business do you absolutely hate at the moment?
  • How many people do you need to hire to create your end goal?
  • What would you like to create via this business going into the future?

Those should give you a good base to set goals from.

Setting KPIS that measure your goals and movement towards success

Even with clearly articulated long-term goals, in the short-term and even right here, right now, it can be difficult to sense whether you’re actually making progress towards a goal. This is why it’s so important to set KPIs that help you track and measure your performance and progression.

Going back to the example of Business 2iC, if my goals are to:

  1. Build a streamlined, modular and profitable business
  2. Hire a manager/operator to run Business 2iC
  3. Create a full-service agency for my future businesses
  4. Hire specialists for each area of business I need help with
  5. Grow it rapidly so I can fund other ventures

Next, I consider how each of those goals could be measured:

Build a streamlined, modular and profitable business

  • Hours involved in admin (establishing need to hire/automate for this role)
  • Hours involved in sales (establishing need to hire for this role)
  • Hours involved in servicing clients (establishing need to hire for this role)
  • Documentation created (ability to delegate increased)
  • Profit margins of business (ability to siphon money out of the business)

Hire a manager/operator to run Business 2iC

  • Revenue generated (ability to afford ideal person)
  • Hours involved in running the business (establishing need to hire for this role)

Hire specialists for each area of business I need help with

  • Enquiries for needed areas of business (establishing need to hire for this role)
  • Or alternatively, hours involved in sales (establishing need to hire for this role)

Grow it rapidly so I can fund other ventures

  • Revenue per month (ability to track growth)
  • Profit margins for business (ability to siphon money out of the business)

So you can see that with each goal that tracks my movement towards my ideal success, I now have ways of measuring how that progression is performing.

When thinking about selecting your own metrics, look at each goal individually and think about what parts of the business lead into that goal happening. If your goal is to grow the business so you can take money out for other businesses, you’ll only be able to do that if:

  • You generate enough money to cover your expenses and then some.
  • Your profit margins allow you to start taking money out of the business without having an irreversible impact.

The greatest power in using metrics to track your goals is your ability to start optimising for success. This is where you’ll start to see incremental payoff that ultimately helps you achieve those long-term goals without having to acquire an extra thousand customers or radically reduce expenses.

As far as tracking your ideal success, your goals and movement towards goals, you have basically one option. You can wing it and try doing it off the top of your head… or you can take the time to make a spreadsheet and regularly check back in with it.

We’ll talk more about business rhythms later in this post, but for now let’s figure out how we’re going to move the needle in your business.

Step 2 - Selecting the most efficient route to your ideal success

Almost everyone who has ever posted any piece of business content ever talks about the concept of reverse-engineering an end goal. What does that mean?

Reverse-engineering is an engineering term which refers to deconstructing objects to reveal their secrets - the design, architecture and knowledge needed to create that object - so you can understand how it works and in the process, learn how to piece it back together.

This principle is an incredible tool when thinking about building a business as well. If you want to build a million dollar business, what methods are you going to need to use to make that happen?

We already followed this process in the first step of creating a growth strategy as far as reverse-engineering our ideal success for our business. But now we need to think about what methods or channels we’re going to use to achieve those goals.

The internet is convoluted mess

Right now, you have some 50+ channels available to you to grow your business. The question you ask shouldn’t be how do I create growth in my business but where is my time best spent creating growth.

This is how I think about creating business growth. There are four categories of impact that your work or chosen marketing channel could have on your business:

  • Explosive - a channel that will scale your business quickly and efficiently
  • Sustainable - a channel that will grow your business in a more manageable way
  • Incremental - a channel that will overtime build leverage but has very little impact immediately
  • Low Return - tasks you have to do to keep your business on its feet but have very little impact on the growth of your business

When we break it down like this, it’s actually a lot easier to understand. Now it’s just a simple matter of categorising the 50+ available channels…

Simple? Maybe.

Time-consuming as all hell? Yes, which is why I’ve done it for you in my eBook.

Gain access to The Three C’s of Growth eBook.

If you download that, you’ll be able to choose a channel from each category and begin building your business is an effective way. This guide doesn’t cover choosing channels based on ideal customer demographics (which is actually incredibly important for choosing the right channels), so keep that in mind.

One of the most common questions I receive is -

“Why wouldn’t I choose four explosive channels over one from each category?”

You’ll see in the eBook that most explosive channels have a paid aspect to them, which is great for growth but expensive for retention and unstable in the long-term (Facebook, I’m looking at you).

If your goal is to build a long-term business that has brand equity to draw on to remain alive, you do need to choose a sustainable and incremental channel too to ensure that as you build sales and revenue, you’re also building a business that is likely to last.

If your goal is to build a cash-cow or you just want to make a lot of money quickly, by all means choose four explosive growth channels. Whatever floats your boat (and supports your end goal).

Step 3 - Developing a strategy to succeed on those channels

The next step is defining a strategy for each of the channels you’ve chosen. I typically invest most of my initial time in a business finding an explosive channel that works for it.

The reason for this is because whatever work I put into that channel is going to have a higher impact and help move my business more efficiently than other activities. In the beginning stage of a business this is critical, because you’re not only testing a channel to see if it works for your business, but you’re testing to see if the business itself is going to work.

It’s next to impossible to talk about creating strategies for each channel in blog format.

  1. I haven’t successfully used each of them so I can’t give immediate advice on all of them.
  2. There are too many variables involved from business to business.

I think one of the most exciting and challenging parts of the internet and any channel you choose is that what works for one business almost always doesn’t work for another.

So while I could share what we created specifically for my skin care company and now my consulting business, I know that it has a high possibility of not working for your business. So instead, the value that I can provide in this step is two-fold:

  1. Find companies who are similar to you in their business or product and mimic what they do.
  2. Find companies who are dissimilar to you in their industry, business or product and mimic what they do.

Particularly for your paid advertising channels, this approach is sound and should help you get the cogs turning and bringing sales in. There are a tonne of ways you can sell product and/or services without needing to re-invent the wheel.

For slower-build channels like organic social media marketing, I think if you really want to get cut-through and build the long-term brand equity (which is basically the only reason you would commit to the long trek of building a following on social media), you need to be original.

There’s no formula for originality but I think finding interesting ways to educate, entertain and inspire other people for your particular niche is a good place to start.

Essentially, what you want to walk away from this step is:

  • Your goal defined - the revenue or impact you’d like to generate by a certain time
  • Your strategy (or hypothesis) defined - how you intend to use the channel to achieve that goal
  • Your task list defined - what steps you need to take to achieve both of the above

One of the questions I’m almost always asked is about hiring out channels, like paying a freelancer or agency to run your Facebook Ads. A task list doesn’t have to be an execution list for you to personally implement.

When I sat down to map out my eCommerce consultancy, the explosive channel I chose was Facebook Ads… but I had absolutely no intention of running the ads myself.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Defined my goal - $20,000 per month selling online workshops, courses and consulting packages
  2. Defined my strategy/hypothesis - I believed that the growth part of the service I offer was a good candidate for digital learning, so I came up with a series of products that would sell well.
  3. Defined my task list - it involved interviewing five different people in the Facebook Advertising industry, explaining to them my background and what I now did and choosing the best of the lot. Then I had to create the digital products before we could kick off.

More importantly than who does the work is knowing what work needs to be done, when it needs to be done and in what order, which is what we’ll cover in the next step.

Step 4 - Creating a roadmap for your company

We have our goals, we have our KPIs, we’ve chosen channels, we’ve created strategies to implement on those channels and we have a task list that needs to be completed in order for the company to move towards the desired end goal.

Now what?

We need to create a roadmap for where the company is heading in the next 3, 6, 12 and 18 months.

If you’re an early stage business, I think roadmapping 12 and 18 months ahead is almost pointless, because things change so quickly in the beginning of the business. But what is really beneficial about going that far ahead is you can use the desired end goal that we defined in Step 1 as an anchor to work towards.

What does this look like in a real-life business context?

Let’s go back to my first business, Trefiel (you can read the full case study here). People are almost always blown away that we grew the company from 0 to 10,000 customers in 18 months. I think the reality behind that statement is far more impressive -

I wasted the first 9 months of Trefiel spending time on multiple, incremental growth channels instead of choosing an explosive and sustainable channels.

Much of the growth and success we experienced was in month 9 to month 18. 9 months.

For Business 2iC, I wanted to see how I could take what I learnt from growing Trefiel and apply it to a new business in a tight timeframe. So I gave myself the same amount of time (9 months) to take the consultancy from 0 to $250,000 in revenue.

If I know that by June 2019, I need to have that much revenue (or have sold x units of product), I can calculate how the growth needs to accelerate over that period of time and prioritise the projects and channels which are going to make that happen.

I mapped these calculations into a roadmap -

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This roadmap is right in front of my eyes as I start work on my laptop each day.

I highly recommend doing something similar for yourself so that each time you sit down to start work, you not only have your month’s work in front of your eyes but your 6- and 12-month work as a reminder of what you’re working towards.

Let’s talk about what you can see on the cards which are in my 90-day or 3-month sprint:

  • The goal I’m working towards - this has been mapped from my end-point which we chose in Step 1
  • Explosive channel (mine is Facebook Ads) - what will be happening during the month to start moving towards the future month revenue goals
  • Sustainable channel (in-person opportunities) - I make good money and build my reputation whenever I step on a stage, ultimately leading to more opportunities to grow the company in the coming months.
  • Incremental channel (social media, servicing clients) - I continue to work on these for the long-term payoff in 12-, 18-, 24-months and beyond.

Then, you’ll notice that the following cards have expected revenue but the channels are left open-ended except for major milestones.

I can’t possibly know how my work in the incremental and sustainable channels right now will affect my future month’s, so I leave these open-ended. But what I do know is that in order to achieve my end-goal in the time-frame I’ve set, I need key offers to launch at certain points that will accelerate my business’ growth.

If you’re in eCommerce, this could be launching a:

  • New product line;
  • Giveaway campaign designed to drive sales; or
  • Rolling out a new explosive channel once you’ve “cracked” your first and delegated it.

Your roadmap is going to be unique to your business, your preferences, your end goal and the choices you make as you establish your business. I do think that at the very least, it’s a good idea to have a 90-day or 3-month sprint happening all of the time because it will help you stay focused and moving in the right direction.

Step 5 - Making the best use of your time to work efficiently

Finally, the last step - being the business owner who gets shit done.

One of the major problems I help my clients overcome is finding time and space to grow their business. That’s because so often we fill our prime performance time with activities that don’t matter - like answering emails and managing team members.

Do you have a schedule? And do you stick to it?

If you aren’t using a schedule actively, I think it’s time you at least consider it. Before any of you roll your eyes and tell me you don’t want to be restricted, hear me out.

Schedules done properly aren’t going to restrict, they’re going to give you freedom.

It’s because of my schedule that I’m able to:

  • Take entire afternoons off when I feel like it
  • Take weekends off when I have something planned
  • Grow a successful business, efficiently and swiftly

Well, I should be clear. It’s not just schedules that make that possible. I’m able to do all of it because my business has a rhythm and I stick to my schedule.

What the hell is a business rhythm?

Putting really important parts of your business on recurring schedules for review, analysis and improvement is what a business rhythm is. And if you set your business up with the right rhythm, it’ll dance. Things will fit neatly into place, you’ll have time to build your business and have a life too.

We talked about having a rhythm in Step 1 to track how your company is moving towards your goal. This may be something you review every month. Other rhythms could be:

  • Re-adjusting social strategy based on performance;
  • Upskilling your team and yourself;
  • Money dates - going over the finances of the company and optimising for more profit.

The rhythm that these tasks fall into depend on how important you think they are. I very rarely track my social strategy performance, but I am in my business numbers weekly. It’s really up to you.

That’s it

Now all that’s left for you to do is do the work. Pretty simple, right?

If you’ve reached the end of this post and you’re thinking “yes” - I can’t wait to hear about where you take your company. The sky is the limit.

If your answer was closer to “it’s not simple at all” and you want help growing your business, that’s exactly what I do. Business 2iC helps emerging and transitioning businesses drive growth.

I would absolutely love to help Starter Story readers see the type of success we all see on this blog. To help make that happen, I’m opening my calendar for 15-minute trouble-shooting sessions, which I strongly encourage you to take advantage of.

Finally, for those that do take advantage of the offer to catch up, I’ve also create a discounted growth strategy package that takes this entire process and maps out a roadmap for you and your business.

I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your business.

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