THE BLOG
12/04/2014 12:37 pm ET Updated Sep 24, 2015

4 Barriers to Scaling Your Company

Before writing SCALE, with my friend and co-author Jeff Hoffman (co-founder of Priceline.com) we had a deep discussion of the most common and predictable road blocks that stall most entrepreneurs as they grow their companies.

We were sitting at a TV station in Salt Lake City for a series of interviews and we went back over our business pasts and the history of the companies we had observed over the past 20 years.

Here is a summary of the conclusions we drew about the four barriers to scaling your company -- and how you can get through and past each one. You'll notice that each of these barriers is about your mindset first, and the business only second.

Barrier #1: The Illusion of Control

Beware of the temptation to build for "control." Remember the more control you have the more you must be there to execute that control every hour of every day.

Instead, build so that your business is in control.

The goal is not to put yourself at the center of a spider's web, pulling all the strings, nor is it to hire one or two key employees and put the future of your business in their hands. Rather, your goal is to develop your systems, team, and internal controls to be able to effectively run the business even when you are no longer there.

I promise that you'll have times when you have a set back and your first reaction will be to take back all the reins of power and direct all important decisions back across your desk. Fight this temptation, it doesn't lead where you want to go.

Instead you must, over time and bit by bit, grow your business's capacity to self-monitor, make decisions and effectively troubleshoot problems as they come up.

Barrier #2: Too Closely Identifying with Your Business

Most business owners don't like to admit it, but the fact is they have a hard time seeing themselves as separate from their businesses.

It is as if their business defines them.

They dream of the day that their business doesn't need them, but at the same time they have no clear vision of what this would actually look like in the real world.

What would they do if they didn't work for the business each day? How would they feel if the business were truly independent of them?

Many business owners would be lost like the empty nesters whose teenage children have grown up and moved out into the world.

Let's be clear -- you are not your business.

Your business is a wonderful place to create value in the world, to challenge yourself and grow, but it cannot be the sum total of who you are.

The clearer you can detail out your vision of what your life will be like when you successfully scale your company and are no longer needed to oversee every aspect of its operations, the more compelling that future will be to pull you to do the simple things along the way that will hasten that positive result.

Barrier #3: Overwhelm

I get it; you have a lot going on. You've got customers making demands, team members who need coaching, systems that need to be built, ideas that need to be implemented, and that's just your business!

I'm not suggesting that you need to implement all the ideas you have in your head at one time. In fact, I'm coaching you to do just the opposite. To pick one or two great ideas to implement, and then and only then to go after the next set of ideas. Scaling a company usually happens much faster than anyone could imagine, but the paradox is that it will still require take time and patience.

The good news is that you don't have to do it alone. You can enlist your team to help you do it and tap into outside resources to speed up the process.

When things feel too big and intimidating -- break them down. Pick out a smaller, simpler piece that you can do now, and in so doing, takes you one step closer to your end result.

Can you take 15 minutes to draft out a step? Can you set aside one lunch to have a conversation? Can you schedule the planning meeting knowing that you won't do it perfect, but that you'll still get great value from going through the motions?

Also, lower the bar. You don't have to do it perfect out of the gate. In fact, you likely won't! Instead, give yourself permission to do it imperfectly knowing that you'll make it better and better over time.

Finally, if you feel overwhelmed it likely means you are thinking through steps 1-32. Instead, focus on the step you're on, and leave the other steps for later.

Barrier #4: Inertia

Inertia is the weight of the status quo that saps your strength from taking action. It says that a body at rest tends to stay at rest (and a body in motion tends to stay in motion) until acted upon by an outside force.

You must be that initial outside force that acts on your business. You must be that spark. Do something!

Once you get your company in motion along a new vector, inertia now works in your favor.

Have you ever tried to steer a car that doesn't have power steering? If the car is parked it is almost impossible to turn the wheel. But as soon as the car starts moving forward it becomes much easier to steer left or right.

So my advice to you is to do something. Even if you do it imperfectly at least you're now in motion and course correcting is much, much easier.

Ever noticed that when someone is on a diet they start off with the best of intentions? The first three days they eat healthfully, they exercise, they drink plenty of water. Then on the fourth day they have fast food for lunch and they say, "Oh well, I blew it, so now I might as well eat a few donuts, and a sundae, and candy bar..." It's almost as if they use that fallen moment as an excuse to give up on what they want. They take the easy way out.

I know you're going to have tough moments out there running your business. You will have meetings where you'll take too much of the work on to your plate. You will have client complaints that lure you to just step in and solve them for your team. You will have times when you will get lost in the day-to-day job of your business. That's okay. It will happen.

The key is to accept those moments and not beat yourself up. This helps you put them behind you so that you can then quickly do something to build momentum in a better direction.

For more on growing your company, get our free tool kit with 21 in-depth video trainings to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.