4 Phases to Greatness
I completed more than 10+ consulting calls this week with new business owners and the number one question I heard was…. “how do I get to the point where I can work ON the business vs. just IN the business all day?”. If you’ve received “seed funding”, or you just started an app and google gave you a big chunk of cash to get going….get lost. This article is not for you.
This article is for the “solopreneur”. If you’re sitting in an empty virtual office(aka your kitchen) all by yourself. If you’ve got the idea, a basic website and maybe even some people paying for your product or service this is for you. Also, if you’re in business and the cash register is ringing at least a few bucks but you’re a little unsure how to grow your business without someone handing you a stack of cash and taking 80% of all future profits this is for you.
P.S. I’m writing this from the heart. I remember spending endless nights at my kitchen table writing blogs and trying to fix wordpress plugins I broke earlier in the day. I remember those nights so well. I would drive home at 11pm and stop at 24 hour dunkin donuts for a coffee to “caffeinate” and then continue my work through the night. There was not much of a “miracle morning” then. I wasn’t getting up at 5am to start my day. I was working until 5am. I was by day the salesman, business development person, cfo, bookkeeper, window washer, etc etc etc. By night I was the graphic designer, head of strategy, janitor and web developer. Does this paragraph resonate with you? If not, click off of my blog RIGHT NOW. You have no business here. Move onto Forbes.com or check out your twitter feed for yet another amazing article on how Elon Musk is changing the world or a “Top 10 foods Warren Buffet ate that made him a billionaire” article. Maybe you’re in the market for a “free webinar” hosted by someone that got rich selling free webinars. I dunno. Either way. If you can’t connect with the above “if’s” don’t read on. If you’re in business and actually own your company and want to grow it the old fashion way(with grit and real $$ from customers) then you’re in the right place. You’ve got guts. You’ve got vision. You’re a sociopath…aka entrepreneur.
There are 4 phases to this process. Stay focused. We’re going where no entrepreneurial blog has ever gone before baby!!!
- Phase 1-Super Man: Launch-1 year
- Phase 2-Money Maker: 1-2 years
- Phase 3-Michael Jordan: 2-5 years
- Phase 4-The Machine: 5+
Phase 1-Super Man: 0-1 year
The superman phase is when you show the market place you are made of steel. You are invincible. You’ve just launched. You’ve funded your dream business with your credit cards, personal loans, your 401k and maybe even a few loans from friends and family(cringing). I did all of the above plus borrowing against my wife’s credit (don’t ever do this!!!!). Yikes!!! Your business has started. You’re off the ground and your register is ringing something. If you’re a consultant you may have 1 or 2 clients. If you’re a real estate broker you may have a deal lined up to close and maybe a few prospects you’re working with. There is a pulse. Your business is alive!!!! But, you’re still not in the black. Or, if you are, you’re not making enough money to seriously think of hiring anyone for anything. “Nikitas, what do I do? I’m tired. I’m scared. I can’t afford to get help.”. Very simple ladies and gents. You need to get down on your hands and knees and pray to God for strength because you you will not survive in business unless you put on a superman cape. Yes, I said it. You need to be strong. You need to be super human. You will need to do it all right now to survive. You need to sleep less, work more, forget balance and adopt a work ethic like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You’re in ZERO position to be hiring anyone. You don’t have the cash. It’s just that simple. I was in that position for about a year in my business. You are probably smarter than me and can surpass phase 1 in a few weeks or months. If that’s the case please write a blog article with instructions on how to do it and send me the link so I can share with my readers as I sure as hell didn’t know how. I still don’t. If you’re in this phase, your life is totally off balance and you’re probably feeling very burnt out. Don’t worry. It will be over soon. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Also, if you can make it through phase 1 you are officially “made of steel”. Your business has not gone under. You have very few expenses that can sink you. You may have banks, lenders and credit card companies you owe money too calling, but they can’t shut your doors if you are late on a payment(they can only screw up your personal credit and that is fixable in phase 2 and 3:)). I know every business blog will quickly tell you how you need to delegate and hire people asap. Really? With what money can I afford to hire a part time person to help me? Well, you can’t. But you will soon. For now, you’re Superman!!!
Superman description: You do every single job in your organization. You’re working 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. You’re losing your mind but you have faith that your business is going to take off soon.
P.S. In this phase you want to get as much free help as possible. Ask friends and family for help. Tell them you have no money but you’re on a mission. I was lucky enough to have had my sister and cousin chip in free help early on but I could not afford to pay them anything in those days. Thank you Mary and Melina!!!
Phase 2-Money Maker: 1-2 years
Wooo hoooo. You’re alive. You made it through phase 1. You’re kind of profitable at this point. You’re maybe making a half a living. You don’t yet have the “dream money machine” going and your lame 9-5 working friends are giving you unsolicited advice that sounds like this. “You can’t do this forever. It’s not healthy. Just give up and I’ll get you a job dressing up like a penguin to work at my big fortune 100 company”. Nod your head and tell them they’re right and then secretly block their phone #’s. They are no longer your friends. They are dead to you. They can’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing or why. But they don’t need to understand. They are not wired like you. You have a different genetic make up. You are flawed. You’re an entrepreneur. Anyway, let’s talk about the “Money Maker” phase. I love this phase!!!
In this phase you will start growing quickly in sales and revenue but not too quickly in company head count. In this phase we will start delegating tasks to others at a slow place. Not just work tasks. We will start to delegate tasks in our personal life as well. We will begin streamlining our life and work so we can focus on the “money maker”.
What is the “money maker” you ask?? Let me give you some examples.
If you’re a real estate broker it may be doing listing appointments and networking events. If you’re in the credit repair business(wink wink) it maybe consultations and meetings with b2b referral sources. If you’re in e-commerce it may be calling customers to make sure they are happy with their orders. We all have a “money maker” or two in our business and that needs to become something we hyper focus on in this phase. If we do this successfully we can double, triple and even 5x our income.
“Nikitas, how do I start delegating my tasks?”
Short Answer: Slowly!!!!!
Super simple method:
Get out a sheet of paper the night before a workday. I would do this Sunday night as monday is always wild and jam packed for most business owners. It’s chock full of tasks. Write out your entire day from the moment you wake up until the moment you fall asleep. Schedule and write out every single task you can think of. You’re done for now. Next, take that piece of paper and pen along with you throughout your day everywhere you go. You will be adding more to it. As your day progresses I want you to add other things that pop up. Maybe that stop to the dry cleaners. Maybe that unexpected 15 minute wait in line at deli for your lunch. Add everything. I want you to take that sheet of paper out the next day and analyze every single task you accomplished on Monday. Now, get out a new sheet of paper and list out every single task from the smallest at the top down to the largest on the new sheet of paper. Now, get rid of the 1st thing on that list. The top item on your list should be the easiest thing you had to do that day. It should be super small and you probably felt silly writing it down. If so, you’re on the right path. If the first thing on that list was waiting in line for 5 minutes for your coffee at Starbucks then get rid of it. Download the order online app and have your coffee pre-made before you arrive. Does this seem dumb to you? 5 minutes a day x 20 business days a month x 12 months = 1200 wasted minutes. If it takes you 30 minutes to close a sale in your business you can close 40 more sales per year. If you average $200 in profit from each sale you’ve just given yourself an $8k pay raise. If you are waiting in line for coffee you are losing $8k a year. You just gave yourself an $8k pay raise and we’re just getting started!!! Shorten, cut out or delegate each task on that list. Do it slowly. I would advocate no more than 1 task per week. As you do this you will have more free time to focus on your money maker. Your revenue will grow as a result and you will have the “CASH MONEY” to start hiring slowly in house and remotely for all of the operational tasks other than your money maker. The goal is for you to hyper focus on what is bringing in the CHEDDAR 🙂 Also, feel free to move that list to a google or word document. It can be a list that you add to and modify as your life and business change. If done correctly by the end of the first 2 years in business you should have a super efficient profit center going and you will have streamlined your life and operation.
Phase 3-Michael Jordan: 2-5 years
Phase 3 is when we get more granular. At the start of this phase you should already be focused on the “money maker” in your business. You’re winning games at this point. Your register is ringing and you’re making a really healthy profit margin. When I was in this phase I was doing 2 things ONLY in my business. Business development (networking with referral sources, etc) and point of sales (consultations/enrollments). I had people doing customer service and all aspects of my operation were handled by others. Also, my outside life was pretty streamlined as well. My dry cleaning was being delivered, I had clothes put together for work by my wife the night before, I was pre-ordering my coffee at starbucks to avoid the line. Every 5 minutes I had cut out of my day meant $8k in additional profit at the end of the year. Now, imagine cutting away 6 hours of garbage?? That’s a big pay increase and you didn’t even need to ask your boss for a raise 🙂
Anyway, what is the Michael Jordan phase? I love #23. The truth is I haven’t followed any professional sports team since the late 90’s. I would use a more recent professional athlete example but I really don’t know any. They don’t come to Key Credit and watch me work so I don’t go to their stadium and watch them work. Anyway, let’s move on. Let’s think about #23’s job. He was put on the court every night to score points. He was not the “assist” guy or the “rebound” guy. He was the point guard. He ran the ball and scored points. But, he couldn’t have scored 55 against the New York Knicks in his first game back after retirement all on his own. He needed a team, and so do you!! You’ve got people doing every other task of your business at this point so now we will start breaking down your money maker process and delegating out those tasks. You will get a Scotty Pipen and Dennis Rodman soon. If you’re in sales you will begin breaking down your sales process and delegating many of the parts of that process to others. In my case 90% of my money maker was calling leads that had inquired on our website, then doing a short presentation of our service, then pulling up a credit report for that client and then finally doing a consultation and getting the client enrolled. I broke down this process in phases and then began to hire someone to add to my sales team to handle only one of those tasks. At first I simply hired someone to call leads. They would call the prospect, ask them if they had some time to speak with me and then transfer me the call. The person I hired was not a “salesman”. They had one job only. They called lots of people, asked a simple yes or no question and then transferred a call. That’s it!!! This job position did not require much skill and therefore was super easy and inexpensive to fill. I added someone to pull up the credit reports soon after that as well. I then added someone to send the thank you cards I was mailing after the client enrolled. Within about 6 months I had a sales team. One person was hired to manage 1 or 2 tasks in the “Money Maker” sales process. Not one person on that team was a salesman and that’s why it was easy to recruit and hire people. I was Jordan scoring points all day long. In this phase my income grew incredibly quick while keeping our costs down as a result of avoiding large payouts in commissions to “salesmen”. Also, while all of this was happening I slowly cross trained each of those people in the others positions and also started training them to do consultations. One thing I paid close attention too when I started building my dream team was to hire smarter people than me. Every person on that initial team was more educated, smarter and sometimes more ambitious than me. They just weren’t at the point in their life where they could handle the responsibility of being #23. But, little did they know they were going to be stepping into that role soon……..
In the meantime I was super, hyper focused on closing sales. I was able to triple my income within a 12 month period when I put this process in place. It was a pivotal moment in my professional career. I was making amazing money and having a blast doing it. But, was it sustainable? Probably so. But, I was not at the point where I was able to work on my business vs. in my business. I wasn’t an operator. I was a salesman. If you love this phase your business you may never leave it. That’s okay. There are people that never leave the Jordan phase. They make a million dollars a year and they do it for a long time and that is great. But I wasn’t able too. I lost my voice multiple times and the business came to a grinding halt each time for days. It was scary and I need to move on from it…..
Phase 4-The Machine: 5+
“You need to work ON your business more, and less IN your business”. You read this in a book on business at some point early on your business. I’m sure of it. You’ve been dreaming of the day you would be able to implement this concept. Well, YOUR DAY HAS ARRIVED!!!
In phase 3 you started to build your dream team and your money maker has been broken up between different people in your team. In phase 4 you will start allowing the best person on your team to lead things intermittently. In my case I started having my top sales assistant do every 10 consultations she set up on her own. She did an amazing job. In fact, she did better than me. Slowly we moved her into a full time sales position. She and I did every consultation and we continued to grow the sales team for a while. For the first 8 years of our company we never hired a single “salesman”. We added really smart, kind, ambitious people to our sales team and they grew into amazing consultants or “salespeople” down the line but they never started at our company in “sales”. This system takes time to implement early on but if done correctly you can grow your business incredibly fast while maintaining great service levels and a very nice profit margin. Also, if done right your business will now run like a machine. You can take a vacation and you don’t need to shop on expedia for best deal because you’re making a killing “working ON your business” 🙂 In this phase you are replacing yourself as the money maker and moving your “Scotty Pipens” into the star role. You will do this slowly and will find that your team is chock full of talented people that can score as many if not more points than you. They’ve watched you lead the team for a while at that point and know they can do it themselves. Move your top assistants to “money maker” roles and continue filling up your organizational chart with assistants for those new money makers. Make sure they are talented, smart and ambitious as they will be your future leaders.
p.s. forgot to mention. You now have A MACHINE. You can work ON your business more than IN your business. You can lose your voice and your business will not die. Your business has a life of it’s own. “IT’s ALIVE!!!!”
Hope you enjoyed this article. I’m not a writer and I don’t have an editor yet so excuse the grammatical errors and constant typos. I’m in the “superman” phase of Nikitas.com so I’m doing it all on my own at this point and feel grateful to God for the ability too. Although I can fund the growth of this blog and business advisory business myself I rather prove to all of you that my system works so I’m going to follow it for the growth of this new enterprise.
Having issues finding clients or streamlining your business? Email me at Nikitas@Nikitas.com
Nikitas Tsoukales – Nikitas@Nikitas.com – www.nikitas.com