No business or business model is without its problems, and while I’ve written extensively about product companies on this blog, the problems that product companies have are actually not that dissimilar from say a coaching, consulting or service business.

You either have:

  • Not enough sales
  • Too many sales

Things inside your business are either:

  1. Grinding to halt because not enough money is coming in
  2. Breaking apart because too much money is coming in.

And the biggest challenge as a CEO is identifying what the problem that you’re currently experiencing is and doing the work, with as little panic as possible, to fix that.

I think, at some level, most of us inherently know what to do with the first problem – what to do when you’re not making enough sales and revenue. We know that you need to make more sales. We focus solely on that, even if our focus isn’t necessarily guided by good strategy (and therefore doesn’t result in a good outcome, or more sales).

Certainly that’s been the case in my own businesses, in my client’s, and in many of the people I speak to about their businesses.

But the problem most people have is knowing what to do when you’re making too many sales.

And to be fair, this is a problem that not many people have – least likely of all, women-led companies.

Over the past three years of being CEO at 10k Customers, I can tell you that out of the thousands of people I’ve spoken to about their business, less than 1% have had this problem. Of that 1%, most of them have been clients who have never had that problem before and suddenly have it because I showed them how to create money and sales tsunami in their business.

It’s a privileged problem to have, and the problem is not many people talk about.

The reason people don’t talk about it?

Most CEOs (or the people helping them) genuinely don’t know how to fix the problem.

I was one of them.

Even though I’d built Trefiel, my first skin care company, from 0 to 10,000 customers, I didn’t know how to fix this problem when I had it in that company.

And even when I helped multiple people have the exact same problem – too many sales coming in too fast in too short a time period – I didn’t know how to fix it.

It wasn’t until I myself went through the “too much money” problem (again) with 10k Customers that I got hyper-focused on figuring out how to actually fix it, because like any coaching situation, you cannot help others if you have not helped yourself.

So the answer was to go first…

But the problem is, we all intuitively default to trying to fix this problem with the wrong solutions.

With Trefiel, my monthly revenue was comparatively smaller than most of my clients have achieved, but we had a team of eight to handle the load of the company. Why?

Well…

My intuition told me that in order to grow I needed to hire people to do my job, so I could do other things.

And that’s precisely what most people do – from $100k a year home-run businesses, all the way through to $20m a year companies. That’s the biggest mistake I see, over and over and over, no matter who I’m speaking to.

I just didn’t realise it was a mistake until I actually learnt how to solve the problem.

Because intuitively, we’re not far off the answer – we do need more time to do the most important work in our business.

The problem is the strategy we use to achieve the goal is wrong.

Hiring more people will not make your workload lighter. In fact, for 3-6 months it’ll make it heavier, depending on the person you hired and the job you hired for.

So what’s the actual answer to spending less time in your business and more time on it?

You need to engineer the backend of your business.

Now, this I often find is a difficult concept for clients to understand for two reasons:

  1. You haven’t studied engineering so you don’t even know the base level concepts of engineering and physics and what it’s all about.
  2. You’ve never programmed computers so you don’t understand what a computer can do for you and your business.

Does this mean it’s impossible for you to learn?

No, absolutely not. Anyone can do this – it’s just going to be hard.

Hard is good though, because that’s where most people don’t go, it’s where all the money is and it’s how you keep more of the profit for yourself.

The thing is –

Most of the tasks you’re about to hire, or that you’d like to hire for, don’t even need a human to do them. I’m serious – most of the hires I thought I had to make in my first company, I’ve now realised can be done by a computer.

That is truly mind-blowing when I also link that thought to the amount of money we spent on salaries, that could have instead been profit in our bank account.

But I didn’t realise this until I started learning from one of my favourite people in the entire world, Ben Lewis from New Meta Agency.

What does manufacturing small parts have to do with growing companies?

It turns out – everything.

Ben is a consultant that I hired to help my high-level clients with the “making too much money” problem. He has a background in engineering and manufacturing parts and how you keep through-put on a factory floor – where literally anything and everything goes wrong, all at the same time.

The most important distinction I’ve gotten from Ben over the last 12 months is that bottlenecks will kill a business’s productivity (it’s ability to complete the work it needs to in order to deliver to its clients) and it’s profitability (I’m 100% sure you know what that means).

So, what’s the blockage in sub-$1m businesses I work with (and who are reading this post)?

You are the biggest bottleneck in your business.

Any work you do in your company that is not related to making money, managing the money you make and managing the delivery of what you sold is work you are being a bottleneck for. This includes checking your team members work the way you currently are.

Yes, really.

Side note – I’m not saying don’t manage your team. But I am saying the way you’re managing them is literally stopping the flow of work and money in your company.

What I do to engineer myself out of the business

I spent 12 months last year working through my entire company, from onboarding clients to content creation, from launching ads to pitching media, from collecting testimonials to hiring – every single part of my business is now a process.

And not a process that’s in a folder on a shelf, getting dust more than it gets use.

I have a virtual office where my entire company is run by a checklist.

And guess what?

90% of the work that makes up my company doesn’t need me to do it.

And guess what?

The only team member I have at the point of the company I’m at, is one part-time Virtual Assistant. That’s it.

And guess what?

The way I’ve set up my company means that the training is in the company, so whether it’s her helping me or someone else, they all have access to the same information. Meaning I don’t need to train and re-train people if and when they leave.

And guess what?

I barely operate my company any more.

My job right now is simple and what I’m good at –

  • Write copy
  • Make sales

And because of the way I’ve spent 12 months building the company, I could now handle 200 people joining my business in a 24 hour period without it falling over. My company wouldn’t break in the same way it broke in 2020, because I’ve built it so it can handle it.

Which means this year’s growth is going to be infinitely more enjoyable. Not because I won’t have growing pains (I absolutely will and am already experiencing them), but because my company legitimately runs like a well-oiled machine.

And that is something you should be thinking about too.

Because all this free time I have means I get to be SUPER creative with how I market my business. And that’s going to be something you’re seeing quite a lot of over the next couple of months.

Email me if you have no idea where to start.