You have a book and it’s all about breaking through the bottlenecks. You’ve got a great framework for getting businesses through that. I’d love if you’d share a little bit about that and help us understand how we can break through.
The book was the culmination of getting what I’d show up to help clients do out of my head and organized. I’m grateful that it took the couple of years to get written because it helped me be able to translate how to go through the process. So many of us that get good at something, being able to teach it to others is a lot harder said than done. I realized they do have a unique ability in coming into a business and finding what stuck. The framework is what I came up with to march business owners through step-by-step and finding and fixing the one or two bottlenecks in their business where they’re at. We start with strategy because without your positioning, without your differentiation, you’re just in a sea of sameness and it’s going to be lowest price. A bloody ocean that you’re going to be competing against.
Starting there and marching through them to marketing, every client comes to me for marketing. They think they have a marketing problem. I don’t mind working on marketing. It’s what I enjoy doing a lot of. At the end of the day, marketing is only the real bottleneck about half the time, and so that’s all the lead generation and qualification and closing and a fulfillment that funnel of the client experience. Then from there, we move into management. Every small business owner hates that word. It might as well be a four-letter word for small business owners because they equate it to bureaucracy. Without effective management, you can’t continue the organization. You run into all sorts of limitations without effective management. I’ve boiled down the hacks that work for my clients. You’ll never find any of the management techniques I shared in the book in any Harvard Business Class or a peer-reviewed journal because it’s what works. It’s the very nitty-gritty of what works in the real world with small business owners.
Then we move into systems because you need reliable checklists and documentation and processes for your staff to complete things and to be able to replace staff, so you’re not held hostage by the knowledgeable ones that become pains to deal with or have attitude problems. Then we move into the vision of what’s the point of your business? Now you’ve gone through all these bottlenecks, where are you taking it? There’s only three reasons to start a business. It’s either to grow it, to sell it, grow it, to become a cashflow, the ultimate four-hour workweek, or grow it and pass it onto your kids. Otherwise, you don’t want a job. As Kiyosaki says, “What’s the goal?” Then we develop your bottleneck breakthrough plan and go through some frameworks I’ve developed to use that.
I finished with mindset because it’s the most important factor for growing a company. You have to deal with new hurdles and new challenges that every revenue plateau you grow through. That’s the framework and it’s comprehensive enough for any business owner to pick it up and read through it. Either go to an acute issue that you know is a bleeding neck issue now or march through the book. Prioritize your bottlenecks and which ones to attack and keep going back over and over. I find that just tackling the next bottleneck and fixing it and getting sustainable but having that fixed to be sustained is the way to compound growth.
Everybody comes to you because they want marketing help. We get that. That’s what we go in to close with too. When they come to you for that, how often do you find that that’s not the real issue?
It’s easily 50% of the time, if not more. It depends on the revenue plateau they’re at. I developed what I call the Bottleneck Matrix and it’s the clear defined revenue plateaus that I see companies hit over and over. A half a million is a fuzzy one, but it’s common in small businesses. A million is the clearest delineated one. Then we hit $2 million, $5 million and then $10 million. Then it’s a free fall until $100 million. At each revenue plateau, they’re very clear bottlenecks. If you’re right at a million dollars, you’ve got lead gen figured out. You’ve got what I call a traffic pillar of some kind working. The bottleneck there is operations management because the owner is usually the one out landing business and managing the fulfillment staff. They’re straddling both and they don’t want to increase revenue or increase deal flow because that means more management on the back end, which they don’t enjoy that stuff. Getting somebody in charge of operations fulfillment is the clear solution to that bottleneck in a million dollars, which frees up the owner to go close more and/or bigger deals to get to the $2 million plateau.
As you go through those thresholds and they’re fairly consistent across businesses, the solutions are almost always the same at each one. You don’t necessarily need to know what business they’re in and they typically, at least up to $10 million, they almost always center around the business owner, the leader. Some piece of the business that they don’t want to grapple with. You see it in around that half million-dollar mark, you see it with somebody who can go out and network and they can get some clients and they built up a nice little practice, but they stall there because they haven’t gotten any more sophisticated marketing than that. You see it at the million certainly within our experience anyway with folks who haven’t made that flip to having management systems and delivery systems in the business. Everything’s an ad hoc, which is difficult. You talked about going in and getting quick wins and where would they go and begin to look for that quick win where they could begin to get some momentum with this?
You find what I call the frustration fix framework and it’s, “Where are you frustrated? Where are you spending an inordinate amount of time or not seeing results?” That’s usually the first place to start. By focusing on your frustrations, you’re going to uncover something that can be freed up. That’s the first and laziest, easiest way to find some quick win. The others that are general, I find the sales qualification process is horrible. Most businesses take in lead deal with them. Anybody that’ll fog a mirror or waste time, give a prospect’s pricing to go back to their real provider to renegotiate with. Engage prospects that have no way of ever affording what you provide. Just the number of ways to qualify a lead that companies don’t do is very long.
By improving your qualification process, you can streamline the close better by qualifying, and you have all this extra time and energy. That’s what I like spending time on. I like closing. It’s a fun place for me to spend time in it. That is the core of the business is to generate a client. By closing, we’re working our way out to other related bottlenecks from that central point. Then the final piece is around management and accountability. 100% of the time, push my clients to do a weekly one-on-one meeting with all of their direct reports. I’ve got a framework, I’ve got resources in the book of how to do that, but that streamlines probably 95% of all management and operational headaches by having that weekly accountability of what are they going to get done, what didn’t they get done, what do they need help to get done next week. Then where do they need to be trained or whether they need tools to do their job. Because that’s the whole point of management is to equip frontline staff to get their job done effectively.