When the managing editor of Small Business Enterprise Magazine (Vinil Ramdev) reached out to me requesting that I contribute an article on small business growth for their July issue, I reflected on my own entrepreneur background to identify the challenges I faced. Entitled “Beyond The Glass Ceiling” it is featured on page 16 and 17 in the print edition.
I recalled the early years when I quickly launched and grew a logistics business (in the 1980’s) that went from zero to 8k to 120k per month in the first thirteen months, and (in the ‘90s) from $40k to 500k per month during a period of 36 months.
In the first business we hit the glass wall at 120k per month for a variety of reasons. Certainly there are multiple factors in the growth of any business, but for a small business it really comes down to the essentials: not the least of which is your cash-flow pipeline (billing, collections), the ability to penetrate the marketplace to secure new clients, and the ability to satisfy those clients with a job well done.
When I launched the business there were three of us: me, my 16-year old brother-in-law and my 18 year old younger brother, all working within a single 13 x 13 office. As the business revenue grew so did the business; we expanded the staff, the office size, fleet of cars, and office toys. Without any formal business background I never relied on business theory. Partly because I didn’t actually know what those theories were, so instead I was all about getting stuff done; by force of will I went out and secured new clients, doing whatever was necessary to service them, and juggling cash-flow. It seemed rather easy at the time, until we hit the glass ceiling.
Looking back with the clarity that only time can provide, I now realized that what I really had back then wasn’t a company at all — it was a solo-preneurship that was powered by me alone, with a group of employees carrying out a series of tasks and following protocols I had developed.
In today’s competitive marketplace a company is only a true company when it can keep efficiently working in the absence of its founder. I suggest [in the Small Business Enterprise article] that to grow beyond the glass ceiling — of solo-preneurship — that an owner may in fact have to reconfigure their entire company structure. This means management, protocols, collaborations, and systems — especially in this new automated world we live in.
When I launched my second logistics company in the 1990s, it was then that I started to recognize that it wasn’t just internal systems that required protocols, but for those who build their business in collaboration with others it is just as essential to a business-wide and systematic protocol in place as well.
And in today’s technologically-driven world, which produces new information and techniques at the speed of thought. — something I outline and identify in the article Get Stuff Done — a company can only grow with an effective systematic process and a motivated, self-learning and proactive team.
If in fact the marketplace that your service/product serves will support your growth, it requires the individuals of the company to be at the forefront of their specific discipline, and then share that knowledge across the enterprise — to form an effective unit that can adjust accordingly to the changes in the marketplace.
This shared knowledge along with systematic protocols, the company vision, mission statement and philosophy all become transparent, to not only allow the team to contribute to the company effectiveness, but also, by default, makes them part of the guiding committee as well.