Uncork the Bottleneck–Getting Out of Your Own Way

"Work on your business, not in your business."

Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited

As founders, we often start a business by doing everything ourselves—getting clients, doing the work, delivering the work, billing, tracking down payments, and repeating the cycle. As word gets around and referrals roll in, there's more work than just one or two people can handle, so we start hiring and hiring and hiring, then maybe firing, then hiring again.

At some point, growth stalls. The referrals slow down. The pipeline dries up.


There could be many reasons, but the big one I see repeatedly through my coaching and forum retreat facilitation is the Bottleneck Effect.

As your team grows, it's crucial to consider the supporting roles. Are you still the go-to person for everything? Are you still the bottleneck, approving all the work before it's finalized? Are you still doing tasks you should've delegated? It's vital to strike a balance between managing the team and focusing on the key aspects of your business—sales, finances, and customer relationships.

So why do we delay delegating? It means trusting someone else to get it right. But what does "right" mean? Will anyone do it as well as us, especially right off the bat? Probably not. But can they improve with feedback? Absolutely. And will it ever meet our high standards of 100%? No. So, how do we adjust our expectations to accept that 85% done well is good enough?

Here are some ways to open up the flow, build trust, and take work off your plate so you can focus on the primary issues like cash flow and pipeline:

  • Identify Day-to-Day Tasks: What nitty-gritty work are you doing? Invoice sending? Payment tracking? Payroll processing? Social posting? Newsletter sending? Podcast production? Make a list. What must you keep doing, and what can you automate, outsource, and delegate?
  • Identify Energy Drainers: What derails you or sucks your energy? This is usually a people management issue. You're working on a proposal for a new client, and you get a call from an employee who is about to miss a deadline. Founders typically don't want to manage people. Lead? Yes. Manage? No.
  • Create an Accountability Chart: Start with you at the top, then the three functions of a business—Marketing/Sales, IT/Finance, and Operations. Under each, write the roles you need based on your lists. Is it a marketing manager to keep marketing going? A bookkeeper to process payroll, send invoices, and track down payments? Can an Executive Assistant take over your calendar and travel schedule? Do you have someone internally who could step up and manage your team day-to-day?
  • Focus on Sales: Here comes a little tough love–if your pipeline is dry, it's your responsibility, as the business owner, to fix it. Once fixed, you can delegate or automate aspects, but you or your partner need to get in that seat and iterate every day until you consistently close deals. Clear your plate to focus on the primary issue—zero net new business.

As founders, we tend to distract ourselves with day-to-day tasks to avoid the hard work of fixing core issues—pipeline, cash flow, firing. Day-to-day distractions are like burying our heads in the sand, waiting for problems to resolve themselves. Meanwhile, our culture becomes toxic, our bank account bleeds, and growth stalls.

As business owners, we'll always have problems, but let's start by uncorking the bottleneck, getting you out in front to plan rather than troubleshoot from behind, and ultimately getting you back to growing your business.

Here's to getting out of the weeds and back ahead where you belong.

From Suck to Success

In From Suck to Success, Todd uses his own experience in professional purgatory to propel your business upward by embracing Massive Curiosity coupled with Massive Accountability.

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