The Bottleneck - Every Entrepreneur’s Battle
If you are an entrepreneur, owner/operator, business owner, or just struck out on your own, pick your label, you’ve likely run head-on into this issue. The bottleneck.
I think every owner runs into this. Some realize what it is, adapt, and overcome pretty quickly. Others spend their entire lives in the bottleneck.
What is a “bottleneck”?
What am I talking about? What is this “bottleneck”?
It’s where you as the leader simply do not have another minute in the day to take another phone call, solve another problem, deal with another customer complaint, or fight another fire.
Every person in your organization is coming to you to solve their issues. You are the master firefighter.
Do you know what this means?
Well… it means a lot of things. A couple of common ones to point out:
- No systems and processes
- Lack of faith and trust in your team culture
- Believing no one can do it as well as you can
You have no systems and processes. Everything is in your head. You are the only one that can deal with a customer complaint, build an estimate, invoice for a job, or deal with a scheduling snafu.
No one on your team feels like they have the authority or say so to just solve the problem on their own. They innately feel like they need to bring it to you. Because heaven forbid, they try to solve it and then you find fault with their solution.
Or the good ol’ faithful: if I want it done right, I do it myself.
Listen, I know, if this is your mindset, no blog article about being a bottleneck is going to change your mind. But if this is the case, the responsibility, ahem, fault, lies with you as the leader.
The fault lies with the leader
Think about it this way:
No successful multi-million dollar business was ever built by one person single-handedly. They always had people around them, THAT WERE BETTER THAN THEM, in certain tasks.
I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. For two reasons.
- I see a lot of owner-operators battling with this. I get a front-row seat to the battle playing out as we help landscape business owners get info out of their heads and into a system and process with SynkedUP.
- I’m battling this myself. As SynkedUP grows, we add to the team, and serve more and more people, at scale, I smash my face headlong into the brick wall of reality in this regard.
But… I have hope. A mentor of mine, Dan Martell, just released a new book called “Buy Back Your Time.” I devoured this book. It was like he must have hung out in my office and life. He named struggle after the struggle I have faced or am facing now. And it’s the same stuff you are facing as well. All business owners do at one point or another.
Reading the book also made me think of Steve Martin, the owner of Tussey Landscaping, and how I watched him and his daily role evolve. When I started there, Steve was involved in just about everything. You could say he was a bottleneck to the organization. But he was also smart (and humble) enough to trust people, give them rope, and let them either climb or hang themselves. And it paid off big time for him. In the last 5ish years he’s gone on mission trips multiple times as long as 3 months at a stretch, and the business kept right on running without him.
So, I’ve been lucky enough to have the privilege of watching an “owner remove himself as the bottleneck” story play out right in front of my eyes. That lets me have something a bit more tangible, to see, as proof, that this really is true. You may or may not know anyone that’s done this successfully. If you haven’t, you’ll need to walk by faith.
It should be simple
The thing I love so much about Dan’s book is how gloriously simple he makes it. It’s so easy to understand. So many books speak from the 30,000 ft level, in the “detached from reality” theory. Not this book. Dan makes it so practical. After every chapter, he closes with a simple, short, and sweet list of actions to take.
The key phrase in the book is: most people hire to add capacity. You should hire to buy back your own time.
Subtle difference. But a big one.
He talks about transactional leadership vs transformational leadership.
Transactional is a “tell-check-next” loop. Where you tell someone what to do, check their work, and give them the next thing to do.
(”make sure you do a great job power washing the driveway of the client.” then you go check their work, and tell them, “also, make sure you touch up that mulch we were walking over to work”)
Transformational is when you explain the outcome you want, measure the results, and ask them what they need to get it done.
(”I want this customer to feel like we went above and beyond for them as we wrap up. We measure this by the reviews they leave us on social sites. Do you need anything from me to help make that happen as you wrap up the job?”)
See the difference?
The first one your employee is just doing whatever you tell them. If something goes wrong, they take no ownership, they were just doing what you told them.
In the second scenario, they are free to come up with “how” to go above and beyond. They’ll take ownership and pride in their work (and results). And they’ll probably do even better than whatever checklist you would have handed them anyway.
In another chapter, he talked about how founders won’t grow into pain. If you hate doing something, you aren’t going to excel at it.
There’s a lot more, but I’ll let you discover and absorb it for yourself. I read a lot of books, and the thing I like about this one is it’s not out there in theory land, teaching something that you then are left scratching your head on how to implement. It breaks it down into simple step-by-step action items.
I know for me personally, I’m making this book my focus for my life in 2023. With growing SynkedUP, serving our team, and serving our customers, there’s no shortage of demands on my time and energy. I love it. I live for it. But I also don’t want to wake up in ten years with regrets. My kids are growing up, and I want to be an amazing dad and husband for my family. So, here I am, going public with this commitment. Hold me to it! 😜
(If you want the book, here’s the link to it on Amazon)”
CEO and co-founder
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