I have been in exactly this place several times - where you find yourself caught up in the day-to-day of your business, and I chat to lots of recruitment owners that struggle with this concept all the time. However, between having owned a couple of businesses and putting Firefish through an aggressive growth phase this year I can start to see the different patterns that we all go through as owners.
Stage 1 - Start up
The excitement of those start up months, lots of hours, lots of pain but the unquestioned focus that our businesses will achieve success.
Stage 2 - Core team
This is your first group of employees that believe in everything you are trying to achieve, and move the business forward beyond you - however as owners we still feel the need to do everything behind the scenes to keep it all going.
Stage 3 - Early success
Your business is gaining a great reputation for being successful, but as the owner you probably feel like it’s two steps forward and one step back. Simply put, as you grow the challenges increase and the business needs your time on non-commercial activities. As business owners this is our greatest challenge. We probably started the business because we were fantastic as recruiters and loved making placements, but now it is all about who's doing the dishes or ordering the coffee.
It is the owners that I see recognising this stage that successfully manage to push their businesses forward, but there is no question that it’s tough work and sometimes a lonely journey. Worse still, you are probably getting paid very little, feel that all your doing is sorting out problems and wondering when will the payback come for everything you have done already?
So you look in the mirror, dig deep, and tell yourself to muster that energy that you had at start up again as your business needs you. Here starts the beginning of recognising your new role of working on your business and not in it!
If you’re reading this and it sounds all too familiar, the good news is there are many sources of help out there and you are not alone. Sales Benchmark Index is a great resource for driving the sales side of the business. And although specifically aligned for software businesses, there is some great business modelling that is easily adapted to the recruitment sector in For Entrepreneurs.
However, the resource that I got the best results with was engaging with a business coach through Shirlaws with Kai Murray's Leadership for Growth Program. Kai took the recruitment firm Search from £16M to £120M on exit back in 2007 so has a lot to offer our industry. Together with the clarity of the Shirlaws business systems, the program has a lot to help owners feeling the pain of driving their businesses through to the next stage.
It’s hard work but the investment definitely pays off as stage 4 is sustained growth with a team that are aligned in the right direction - whether that be moving the business forward to take on new branches, raising investment, or exit.
Credit: Image from 1shots and renjish krishnan via freedigitalphotos.net
Wendy McDougall is Chief Fish of Firefish Software. In her spare time, you'll find her playing squash or feeding her inner geek with the latest technology!