The Growth Trap

When I ask business owners, of any size businesses, what their job description is, the most common answer I get is “That’s simple … I do everything!” So naturally, being the curious business coach that I am, I have to ask, “What does everything include?” It usually includes long days filled with things like painting, fighting fires, running out for supplies, supervising crews, paying bills, accounting, and even cleaning trucks and bathrooms.

If “I do everything” is your job description too, this could be one of the major sources of slow growth, stress and frustration in your business. These “everything” tasks eat up your day and keep you from doing the things that you, as the owner, need to do to grow your business – things such as planning, marketing and sales, employee development, and structuring the work so that your business runs efficiently and consistently satisfies your customers.

So, in effect, because so much of your time is spent doing basic field and office tasks that don’t grow your business, your business growth slows and eventually stops. I call this problem the “growth trap,” and it’s as common in multimil-lion dollar businesses as it is in startups. In fact, the growth trap is one of the most common reasons I see for stalled business growth and soaring stress and frustration.

As a start-up, or $100,000 business with one crew, it’s OK to be the “I do everything” owner. In fact, your stamina and ability to do it all are two of the keys to getting your business off the ground. But as you grow and add crews, it’s critical for you to evolve your management style and systematically let go of doing the basic field and office work in order to dedicate more time to building your business.

Ideally, letting go of doing the work should be a well-planned-out, gradual, step-by-step process of delegating more and more to your team and cultivating key people to run parts of your business. By the time you have three to five crews and several hundred thousand dollars in sales, you should have developed crew leaders and crews that can run without you so that you can dedicate at least 50% of your time to management tasks that build your business. And by the time you cross the $1 million threshold, your success will depend increasingly on having key leaders who can run parts of your business (possibly someone in sales and marketing and someone in operations) so that you can spend the majority of your time managing and building the business. Yet as a coach, I meet owners of $1 million dollar and larger businesses every week who are still trying to do everything!

Here’s how one of my clients described the problem.

“I ran our 40-person company like we had seven people. I never took the time to tell my team what to do and then hold them accountable to do it, and then I wondered why they did things that drove me crazy. I spent my time doing their work, and then I wondered why I wasn’t getting things done. I wasn’t doing things to help move the company forward; I was making them dependent on me!”

Bottom line: Your growth and success depend on your ability to delegate and get the basic day-to-day office and field work done through your people so you can focus an increasing share of your time on owner-worthy activities that truly contribute to creating a smooth running business with consistent growth and profit.


Come on, admit it; I won’t tell! If you are (even some of the time), here are five things that I work on with my clients to help them let go of doing the work so that more time can be dedicated to business building.

• Define what your job as the owner should be.

Write your own job description. First, describe how your role contributes to the overall success of your business and results you are responsible for. Then define your key job responsibilities and the areas you need to invest your time in to help your company achieve its goals. This is an eye-opening exercise, so don’t skip it.

Clearly defining your job is critical so that you can focus your energy and time on the work that you, as the owner, must do to ensure the success of your business. Defining your job will also highlight what work you shouldn’t be doing so that you can either eliminate it altogether or delegate it to your team.

• Take a hard look at what you do every day, and eliminate or delegate tasks that aren’t your job.

Make a list of everything that you do at work – daily, weekly, monthly, big and small. Include things such as fighting fires, handling customer complaints and running errands. You will probably have a very long list. Most of my clients come up with lists of 50 or more tasks!

Eliminate or delegate tasks that aren’t in your job description. You should be able to remove 30% to 60% of your tasks and replace them with tasks that can really improve your business.

• Put the work where it belongs.

Delegate the work that’s not part of your job to the person who is in the best position to do it. If no one in your business fits the bill, then consider outsourcing (accounting, bookkeeping or web design).

This seems obvious, but it’s more challenging than it sounds because, of course, no one can do the work as well as you can, and it’s quicker and easier to do it yourself than to train someone else to do it. But delegating work that isn’t your job is key to your success and to your sanity. So take the time to create procedures and train and coach your people to do the work that you delegate to them.

• Replace hands-on management with a new, “hands free” system of controls.

Getting work done through others is one of the hardest skills that you may have to master as a business owner. It feels so out of control. So to retain control without having to micromanage, which eats up too much of your time, replace hands-on management with a new system of controls.

(a) Create written procedures and expectations stating how you want work done and train your people on them.

(b) Create a system to measure the results your crews produce (such as profit per job, estimated hours vs. actual, estimated material costs vs. actual, or number of callbacks or customer complaints per 10 jobs). This will allow you to spot problem areas without having to drive around and visit each job.

(c) Manage through meetings. Hold regular meetings with your crew leaders, crews, salespeople and office staff to monitor, mentor and manage their behavior and to understand their challenges and concerns.

• Schedule dedicated time in your calendar to get your work done.

Now that you have freed up time, schedule your most important owner job responsibilities into your calendar and do this work religiously. Experience shows that freeing up time is not a guarantee that you will use it productively. Other urgent but unimportant tasks will magically spring up and vie for this time. Protect this time like a guard dog, and use it productively on that important, but not urgent, work that is in your job description. This is the key to growth.

“As you grow and add crews, it’s critical for you to evolve your management”


My clients have seen dramatic business turnarounds when they’ve implemented the five activities that I’ve prescribed here to let go of doing everything and focus their time on the activities they need to do to grow the business. You too can break free of your growth trap and get your business growing strong if you follow my advice. Then repeat these activities once a year to ensure that you keep evolving how you manage your company to help sustain your consistent growth and profit without stress and frustration! APC

Bill Silverman is the owner of Springboard Business Coaching. He is dedicated to helping you propel your business to the next level of growth and profit while you work less. He can be reached at (856) 751-1989 or

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