Smooth Entrepreneurship

For me the most challenging thing about running a business is that I always feel like things should move faster.

Revenue should go up faster.

The number of clients should grow faster.

Great people should join the team faster.

As the owner I should remove myself from the day-to-day tasks faster.

But I’m slowly starting to accept that trying to speedrun everything makes things worse in the long run.

To give an example, naturally we wanted the business to grow as fast as possible.

So we said yes to virtually any business that wanted to work with us.

That was a huge mistake.

We started having lots of clients that we simply were not able to help no matter how much energy we put into it.

Each of these clients started to require 10x the resources of other clients.

And they still ended up unhappy.

If certain fundamentals are missing in a business, it’s impossible to generate quality leads.

The worst thing wasn’t even that we were losing money on each of these clients.

It was that it demoralized the team.

There is nothing more frustrating than working your ass off only to see zero results and clients leave.

Similarly, for the sake of growth we offered monthly contracts.

Did this help to close more deals?

For sure.

But it also introduced a key problem.

B2B deal cycles are typically longer than 4 weeks and it can take a few weeks to figure out the right lead gen formula.

So with monthly contracts, when the first subscription renewal was due for clients, most businesses didn’t have any tangible results.

We’ve now changed to quarterly contracts only since this aligns the billing intervals with our typical time-to-value.

It’s of course harder to close quarterly contracts.

Growth will be slower.

But the clients who now do sign up, are higher quality companies and will stick around longer.

After 3 months renewing the contract will in most cases be a no-brainer since they can see a clear positive ROI.

Another example is that Ryan and I, as the owners, tried to remove ourselves from certain key functions in the business far too quickly.

You have to work in the business for far longer than most business books make it seem.

As the founder, you have to figure out the sales pipeline, the onboarding process, and how to ensure consistent quality.

Removing yourself from service delivery isn’t that difficult.

But you’ll still be left with a hundred other hats.

And it will take a lot more time before you can hand these hats over to someone else too.

First of all, because you need to get a ton of reps in.

You try different things, you fail, you try something new, you try something else, you keep trying, until maybe eventually things start running somewhat smoothly.

Only once you’ve built a proper machine, you can hope to be able to hand it over for someone else to operate.

As long as one of the machines is changing all the time, even the best team member will fail to operate it.

The second reason why removing yourself from the business takes a lot of time is that it requires a lot of money.

You need to hit a certain scale because you can hire someone to do higher level skills for you.

Hiring skilled A Players is expensive

And realistically you will need to hire six or more people to do what you are doing.

So you will need to keep grinding, work in the business, until you’ve grown it to a scale where you can hire A players you can hand over each of the hats you’re wearing to.

And speaking of hiring, we of course tried to speedrun things here too.

We hired without a clear understanding of what we needed and ultimately had to fire people.

Not great for clients, not great for the team spirit.

Now I still do believe that acting with a sense of urgency is important.

But it’s also important to accept that certain things simply take time.

It’s better to say no to bad fit customers or introduce friction even if it comes at the cost of growing more slowly.

It’s better to keep working in the business until you’ve built a proper machine and can afford to hire A Players than handing off responsibilities prematurely.

Things will go slower at first.

But the business will also run smoother.

And you will eventually hit your big goals faster.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Written on January 26, 2024

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