THE BLOG
07/30/2015 11:20 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2016

6 Tips to Scale Your Service Business

Owning a service business can be tough, and running a service business day-in and day-out can be even tougher.

For many service business owners, building a service business stopped being fun a long time ago and somehow it mutated into a "job".

Having coached so many service business owners ourselves, not to mention owning multiple services businesses, I understand.

Here are 5 tips to help you scale your service business and get your life back.

1. Recognize you're in for a fight, and that it's normal and expected.
Over the years my company, Maui Mastermind, has coached thousands of service businesses, helping them to overcome the typical obstacles that keep so many of these labor intensive companies small.

This is such a common challenge that we even have a name for it. We call it the "Self-Employment Trap". This is where you are so consumed by your daily role running the company that you don't have the time or energy to focus on building a service business as a business. In essence you've built a self-employed job for yourself, not a business.

Whether you're working business-to-business or business-to-consumer, service businesses just may have the highest rate of "owner reliant" companies of any type of business (I wish the Small Business Administration would keep this statistic.)

Statistics the Census Bureau does track shows that 88.6 percent of businesses require the owner to be there as the primary person responsible for core functions like producing their product or service, managing the day to day business, and managing the financial aspects of the business. In other words - they are owner dependent.

So relax if right now your company needs you there every day. You're not alone. And you can solve this challenge and over the next 2-5 years, work yourself out of the job of running the business.

2. Don't let your "expectations" and "perfectionism" trick you into thinking that only you can meet your own standards.

Why? Because of the high expectations of your clients combined with the difficulties in finding and managing your workforce to deliver up to your high standards tricks many service business owners into thinking that only they can do things right in the business. Hence they better make sure that they check everything.

This is a recipe for you the business owner forced into a role of catching many last minute mistakes or "fires" that you have to rush in and fix--often at a high price to your family and personal life.

But here's the things, while it may be hard to find any one employee who can do things as well as you can, the solution isn't for you to stay in the mix. The long term solution is for you to refine your systems so that when you take a talented team member, and integrate them in a stable structure (read systems) for producing your service offering, and give them simple controls that let them effectively self-manage, then not only can you improve on your quality, but you finally have a scalable business too.

Take the example of Klayton Tapley, owner of The Fireplace Place. When we first started coaching Klayton his business was stuck at $750,000 a year in sales, with Klayton playing the key role managing operations, leading sales, and doing the financial pillar of the business at night and on weekends.

Today Tapley's team produces over $2 million in revenues with key staff who in combination with their internal systems and controls keep quality and consistency of work product better than ever.

So don't let your own distorted beliefs about how you're essential for doing all the key functions in the business stop you from working your way out of the "job" of your business.

3. 100 percent of a great team member is better than 20 percent of you.
In Tapley's case he is a great sales person, but because of the other demands of the business, he was spending less than 20 percent of his time focused on sales. When he made a few key hires in sales, and integrated them into his budding system, he got all of a several solid team members. This has lead his company to grow at 50 percent per year for the past several years.

So if you struggle with the belief that you could ever find someone as talented as you, remember, that all of a solid person is better than a mere distracted fraction of you for that specific area of the business.

4. Intelligently hand things off in a progressive way, but not to an individual, but to an individual empowered by a system with simple controls in place.

Time to get concrete. If you want to scale your business and get your life back, it's critical that you don't just hand off to a person, but that you make sure your business gives that person the tools to do an excellent job. This means the systems and controls to see that the work is done the best way possible and the feedback to make adjustments on the fly.

Sure you may have handed things off to team members in the past and they might have screwed up, but does that mean that handing things off was the problem, or the specific way you handed things off?

For Tapley this meant giving his service team clear operational procedures to follow, and the training to help them become fluent in them. It also meant helping create the training system all new sales team members go through so they gain the company, product, and sales process knowledge they need to be successful.

The most expensive words you'll ever say are, "If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself." Further, too many business owners use this an excuse to keep doing too much for their company, which only weakens the business long-term.

5. Systematize the production of your core service offering so you can optimize how it works.

When you take the time to formally process out the production of your core service offering, you can start to break it down and refine it to be better, cheaper, faster, more consistent, and more scalable.

We've seen time and time again that when our business coaching clients implement systems and sound business controls, their team enjoys more success, retention increases, and the cost of replacing any one team member drops dramatically.

6. One of the core systems you need to scale your service business is your system to hire and onboard your team.

It's not enough to be able to find good people one-off, you need a solid system in place to reliably find and onboard new people as you grow.

Plus you'll also need a sound system to manage your team (emphasizing ways for them to self-manage their own behaviors wherever possible.)

Remember, as a service business, you're company will be hiring and managing staff forever--it is just a core part of your service business--and as such you need to make it a real strength of your company. And this means systematizing your knowledge of exactly how to do it.

For a free business owner tool kit with 21 detailed training videos to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.