Hitting the Ceiling

So you’ve hit the ceiling.

Your business was growing, and then it stopped. You’re scratching your head trying to figure out what happened. (Or maybe holding an ice pack on your head, because hitting the ceiling hurt.)

This is an epically long article to help you diagnose the problem, fix it, and start growing again. The fixes are simple, but they’re not easy. They take discipline and commitment.

Only entrepreneurs who fear the status quo more than growth read past this point.

Still with me? Great. Reading to the end of this epically long article is not going to be easy for people with the attention span of a … ooh! Squirrel!

Yeah, you get it. Here’s hope: The fixes are simple. You just need the discipline to …

Read this epically long article Use the article to diagnose which problem you need to solve Commit to the fix

Here’s rough news: Committing to the fix will take … you guessed it … more discipline.

But you had the discipline to start a business and grow it to this point. You and I both know that makes you part of a tiny, tiny minority of people who create value in this world. You know you’re in it to win it. I know you’re in it to win it. So read on for Step 1, Diagnosis.

This is going to be tough love. A sentence coming up really soon now says, “you’re bad at” things.

I know you can take it. Read on.

Why You’ve Hit the Ceiling

You’ve hit the ceiling because you’re bad at one or more of these things:

  1. Simplifying: Your business is way too complex. You need to simplify, man. (Bonus points if you get that joke without clicking on the link.)
  2. Delegating: You’re holding on to too many things.
  3. Predicting: You don’t know what problems you must solve this week to execute your plan, and you don’t know what priorities to work on this quarter to achieve your annual goal.
  4. Systemizing: You’re doing it your way, your employees are doing it their ways, and there is no one way. You’re not going very fast because you keep … wait for it … reinventing the wheel.
  5. Structuring: You don’t have the right and best people structure defined to get you where you want to go. You don’t have the right seats, so you certainly don’t have the right people in them. And Jim Collins told you what happens to the bus then.

You can’t say I didn’t tell you this would be tough love.

How Hitting the Ceiling Feels

Hitting the ceiling causes entrepreneurs pain in one of these five areas. Or in other words, if you’re frustrated with one of these five aspects of your business, that frustration’s not the real issue. Instead, it’s a symptom of an underlying issue: That you’ve hit the ceiling.

Here are the five symptoms of hitting the ceiling:

  1. People: Your people aren’t performing. They aren’t on the same page. They don’t seem to Get it, Want It, or have the Capacity to do it.
  2. Profit: There’s not enough of it. It’s like you’re running that business where someone give you a dollar bill, and you give them 100 pennies in return. “How do you make money?” people ask. “Volume!” you reply. (Again, bonus points if you get the Saturday Night Live reference without clicking on the link.)
  3. Control: You’re not running your business, it’s running you. Remember that personal freedom and autonomy you envisioned when you started your company? No? Well, that’s a problem.
  4. Growth: There is none. And I’m not just talking about external growth—things like sales, and revenue, and number of employees—I’m talking about internal growth—all the improvements that make your business ELF (Easy, Lucrative, and Fun) and not HALF (Hard, Annoying, Lame, and Frustrating).
  5. Magic Pills: Quick fixes haven’t worked any better than they did for Jack and his beanstalk. (Oh wait, bad example: “Jack and his mother live happily ever after with the riches that Jack acquired.”

Want to Fix the Pain?

Now that you’ve identified what’s causing your pain, you have to make a decision. What will you decide?

  1. Live with it, like a whimpering old dog?
  2. Leave it (sell the business), or
  3. Change it?

To change it, you’re going to have read on. And saying, “I started this business to lead, not to read,” is not an option, even if it’s really funny in an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.

The Fix(es): Do Business Differently

To break through the ceiling …

  1. Simplify: Cut complexity; simpler is better, and less is more.
  2. Delegate: You can’t do all the things that used to bring you success. You need to build extensions of yourself.
  3. Predict: Weekly and quarterly, what must and can be done to hit your annual goals.
  4. Systemize: Document your core processes, simplify them, and get them followed by everyone.
  5. Structure: Create the simplest Accountability Chart to get the right people in the right seats.

“This is a tough thing to really come to grips with,” my fellow EOS Implementer Jim Coyle writes. “We have organizational leaders say to us, ‘But this is the way we have always done things and we have been rather successful.’ As correct as they may be, the problem is these great leaders have taken their business to the edge of the land and keep trying to walk across the water. It just doesn’t work. Unless you are God. And, if that is the case, email me. I have a few questions.”

You needed faith in yourself to launch a business and get this far, but you don’t have unlimited skills and abilities. Good news: EOS—the Entrepreneurial Operating System—makes change and growth simple.

To learn more:

Listen to or read Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman. The book shows you how to simplify, delegate, predict, systemize, and structure. As you might have guessed, it’s simple, but not easy; and it takes discipline. Text me at (402) 202-2820 or email me at john@gear80.co and I’ll send you a free chapter, or if you’re in Lincoln, Nebraska, hand-deliver you a hard copy for free. Or if you like audiobooks, I can send you a copy for free if you’re not already an Audible subscriber.

Call or email me with questions. Nebraska companies like …

  • EyeCare Specialties
  • Firespring
  • Berry Law Firm
  • Bulu
  • ComPro
  • Bluestem Fiber
  • opendorse
  • Executive Travel
  • MultiMechanics
  • Fashion Tec USA

… all hit the ceiling at one time and chose help from an EOS Implementer like me to help their leaders master the ability to consistently break through the ceiling.

Get Great People and Results with Cake, Not with Icing

Get Great People and Results with Cake, Not with Icing

You need these three layers to perpetuate your Core Values and build your culture:

  1. Hire every single person on Core Values
  2. Review based on Core Values
  3. Give a Quarterly State of the Company speech

You can bake these three layers into your company (see what I did there?) even if you’ve burned every real cake you’ve ever made. Here's how.

Business Owners Delegate, Even After Disaster

Even after the moon blows up, business owners still need to delegate.

Stick with me here, it’s worth it for a rip-roaring read recommendation and a core principle for your business success.

In Seveneves, the moon blows up in the first sentence. Humanity has about two years to evacuate the planet before a meteorite rain ignites the atmosphere and melts the surface. Humanity survives dodging the moon’s core and other bits big and small, and rebuilds civilization enough to support ... wait for it ... a bar.

Delegate and Elevate

Enter our core business success principle: delegate and elevate. In Seveneves, barkeep Tyuratam Lake calmly polishes a glass as customers pour in all at once:

The ability of the Crow’s Nest to accommodate a socket surge with no intervention from Ty, other than polishing a glass, was, in a sense, his life’s work. He had done every job it was possible to do in this place, from floor mopper on upward, and learned over time to select and delegate the work to others who could do it better.

So Ty has clear roles in mind and has wisely delegated those roles for which he, himself, is not the best fit.

He had advanced, in other words, to higher levels of mental activity while always doing enough of the floor mopping and glass polishing to remain in physical contact with the business of the bar and in human contact with the staff.

Ty also has elevated his own role to mainly working on the business, instead of in the business.

Ty had, in other words, developed the Crow’s Nest into a sufficiently healthy and robust organism that it was possible for him to disappear for weeks, sometimes even months, without inflicting serious damage. In some ways, his occasional “vacations” actually did more good than harm, in the sense that when he came back he would commonly find that certain members of the staff had risen to the occasion and become more complete and effective human beings in his absence.

It’s a win-win for Ty and his people: Ty gets full control of his time, and his employees rise to higher fulfillment. Ty delegates; they elevate.

(The above excerpts seem a little out of place for a rip-roaring post-apocalyptic thriller, right? I thought so, too, but trust me: The vast majority of the book moves fast, with only a few departures by author Neal Stephenson into explicit position-taking on societal and business issues.)

Get a Grip on Your Business

It’s almost as if Ty, in the distant post-apocalyptic future, has been reading a business book published before Earth died: Get A Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business by Gino Wickman. It’s not a “we’re all gonna die” disaster novel. But it tells the story of an entrepreneurial dream about to die if the founders don’t do something different, quick. From the synopsis:

Eileen Sharp and Vic Hightower were frustrated. After years of profitable, predictable growth, Swan Services was in a rut. Meetings were called and discussions held, but few decisions were made and even less got done. People were pointing fingers and assigning blame, but nothing happened to solve Swan's mounting problems. It felt as though they were working harder than ever but with less impact. The company Eileen and Vic had founded and built for 10 years was a different place. It just wasn’t fun anymore.

(Spoiler alert!) Eileen and Vic go on install the Entrepreneurial Operating System, getting the six key parts of their business running like clockwork so they enjoy working there again and Eileen gets to take a real, unplugged vacation. Just like barkeep Ty’s business development work in Seveneves, Eileen and Vic’s work gives them back their time and their enjoyment, and elevates their employees’ career fulfillment as well. Win-win.

Quickly Assess Your Business

The orange wheel right here depicts the Entrepreneurial Operating System, which thousands of business owners in every industry have used to make delegation and elevation possible. (Perhaps even Ty, far in the future!) They realize they’re:

  • Pushing harder on the gas pedal
  • Working longer hours
  • And not seeing the business results they want, all while
  • Spending too much time at work,
  • Spending too little time with their families
  • And not enjoying the work itself

And then, the ones who are open-minded, growth-oriented, and vulnerable self-implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System, or get some outside help implementing it, and they get traction.

So, look at the orange wheel. Which piece seems missing, broken, or flat? That’s where you need to work. (There’s followup help below.)

Next Steps

▶ Listen to Get A Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business by Gino Wickman at 1.5x or 2x speed. Do this while you’re exercising. (Win win!)

▶ Schedule a 90-Minute Meeting with me to evaluate whether the Entrepreneurial Operating System can help you delegate more, and get you everything you want from your business.

▶ If you want another rip-roaring read after you’ve finished Seveneves, try Saturn Run. Popular suspense author John Sandford tries his hand at science fiction, collaborating with a coauthor. Advanced alien technology turns up around Saturn, and it’s a race between China and the United States to get to it first. It reads like a blockbuster movie, which it’ll probably become.