Scaling your business depends on the careful execution of three principles.
First, what is your number one priority over the next 90 days? If you are not scaling enough it could be due to either you got too many priorities or you have got the wrong priority and this goes back to, do you have the right question, what is the purpose of your business?
The second is do you have the right data, quantitative and qualitative, are you getting enough information from your customers and the marketplace to inform you on what you need to work on next?
Third, are you getting in a room and talking about it, which is a little bit like, a one-hour marketing meeting with your team to power up the business? If you are not clear about which is the number one thing that you need to work on next, it could be you do not have the right data or you are not getting in the room and talking about it.
And these are the three fundamentals of Rockefeller’s habits.
The Ivy Lee method
As the saying goes: “Goals without routines are wishes and routines without goals are aimless.”
You have to understand setting routines sets you free. And if you think rationally, success comes down to something very simple: Goals + Routines.
Remember it is the setting of routines that is critical. The coach of the legendary 19th Century American business magnate John D Rockefeller was a guy named Ivy Lee who was also the coach of many of the titans during the industrial age.
During a coaching session, Lee shared what he considered to be a key ingredient for success.
He taught his followers to consider the most important thing for an entrepreneur, which is to have yourself and everybody in the organisation set the top priorities for the next day, week, month, quarterly and year.
He argued you cannot just make a random list, you have to put them in order of priority for example, one through six, and the key is to follow that order judiciously. You cannot move to three if one and two are not completed.
As the famous story goes Lee said: “Look, I am not going to charge anything for this piece of advice, use it for a month and pay me what you think it’s worth.” Charles Schwab, a shipping magnate and then one of the world’s wealthiest men, wrote him a check for $25,000 which in today’s dollars would be close to half a million for that one piece of advice.
Execution helps you drive profit, if you want to get your execution right, you have to be mindful of when you need to say no and this is hard for entrepreneurs because you are enthusiastic and have a lot of ideas.
Get the rhythm of good execution by starting on two to three big priorities which you can achieve over the next three months. Get everybody in the organisation aligned to contribute to the achievement of the mission and the vision of the organisation.
At the end of the quarter, measure success and learn from your performance, recalibrate or pivot as necessary to stay on your priorities and move the business forward. Be clear on who is accountable for those priorities even though many staff are contributing towards them.
If you want to scale, you need to know how to get to top influencers and create a list of 25 top influencers you should meet.
Then you need to set aside one hour a week for marketing, separate from sales or product or service design and connect with these top 25 influencers who are going to help you scale your business.
List your top five and spend an hour every week figuring out how to get to those people and convince them to support and signup for your product or business.
What you want to leap is the power of the influencer in the business. The list of the top 25 people in the industry could include, for example, presidents, socialites, YouTubers, magazines, bloggers, etc whom you need to nature close relationships with and keep up to date with what you are doing.
Make the list and begin to reach out, you may not know these influencers but don’t worry about that, you may know a person who knows a person and start there. To keep in touch with the top influencers you may, for example, gift an article or book that has particularly touched you with your influencers or you may diarise their birthdays and children’s anniversaries and send out a personalised card on this important day.
Another way to stay in touch is through setting up a google alert if you do not know what google alerts are then google, google alerts and stay in touch with your top influencers.
Google alerts monitor when their names appear on the media and use that moment to connect with them.
Call in and get to know their assistants and at least get the assistant’s email and begin to email when an important issue comes up and begin to nature those relationships and you will be surprised how far you will go.
To scale your business, you need to create good public relations, develop great material for the press, and be willing to create good PR, the more you can be more you the more press will follow.
Get the press to write about your business, even if you do not have money, try and be creative and innovative on how to attract the press.
You need to understand how to attract people to be interested in your business, figure out what will draw people to use your product, what will excite them to want to invest money and time with you and then package that creatively.
Do events that are story worthy and come up with creative ideas.
Watch out for icebergs
In business, you have always to be on the lookout for icebergs - the threats that are looming out there that might come along and wipe your business or wipe out an entire industry as we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic.
All kinds of changes including technology change, legislative change, competition change or even geopolitical conflicts or tensions. If you can learn to spot the iceberg in advance and you can learn to see them way ahead of everybody else then you gain two big things which are (i) avoiding danger and (ii) allowing you to take advantage of the situation in many ways, for example, if a big change comes along for example like the pandemic and you were able to see it then you have a wide blue ocean where to can innovate and come up with cool products.
The next thing you want to do is to build your relationship with a bank and establish yourself well enough to even have the possibility of going to lunch with the CEO of your bank.
Your bank needs to be large enough to be able to grow with you. Build your relationship early when things are going well because mostly you need the bank when things are not working well.
Treat your bankers as if they are partners and not just a supplier. Remember bank debt gives you leverage that allows you to invest back in your business. You need to have the access to cash that is necessary when you want to scale.
If you look at companies that can thrive and survive in any operating environment from a cash perspective, they have about three to six times more cash reserves or access to lines of credit than their competitors.
As a general rule ensure you can have at least six months of operating cash reserves, this will make you focus on making your business great. A trusted Banking relationship will serve you well in your business.
And in business always remember: “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” As put by inspirational author and speaker Simon Sinek. Create a compelling purpose for your business.
-The author is a Senior Budget Officer at the African Development Bank and the author of Unlock Your Body Budget.