5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Grow a BIG Business
Entrepreneurs start out by doing it all. You’re the one up at 3 AM printing shipping labels or messaging back and forth with suppliers. You’re writing copy for the website or replying to customer service emails. You’re meeting with investors and managing the books. All at once.
As your business grows, though, those tasks begin to shift from doing to managing. The more you grow, the more your role moves toward a more traditional CEO position—and with that comes a completely different set of challenges and skills required to meet them.
Scaling successfully is one of the top challenges small businesses face. That’s why we asked our top CEO coaches what advice they give to startups and entrepreneurs looking to grow a BIG business. Here’s their top tips:
1. Invest in Growth
Whether you seek outside capital immediately or plan to bootstrap as long as possible, it’s essential to invest as much as possible in the growth of your business. For Ryan Iwamoto, Founder and CEO of 24 Hour Home Care, that meant putting as much money as possible back into the company. “We started the company back in 2008, in the heart of the recession,” he says. “For the first 13 years…all of the profits were reinvested back into growth. That really kept the culture of being disciplined with our expenses and making sure that we were very diligent in how we ran the company.”
That doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to growth that will work for your business. Once you have a solid vision for where you want the company to go in the next few years, you can identify what steps you need to take to get there. Coach and three-time CEO Douglas DeBoer has his clients design a “house” that visualizes how those goals line up to support growth. “On the roof of the house is the end goal. That could be, I want to get to a $100-million valuation. I want to help 10 million people improve their lives,” he says. “The foundation of this house is the core that’s running through the business, whether that’s a core culture, whether it’s a technology that’s driving the business, whether it’s ethics. The pillars are what is holding up the roof on top of the foundation.”
As CEO at Domino’s, DeBoer built a “house” with a rooftop goal of beating competitors like Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s, who at the time dominated the market. Using three pillars of same-store sales growth, international growth, and new technology, Domino’s today averages 42% market share and they achieved $4.5 billion in global sales in 2022.
“Once you’re clear on those pillars of growth, that’s the gold,” DeBoer says, “and the channel that you’ll be able to use to drive your business, and the drum beat that you’ll use to set and drive towards your quarterly and annual goals.”
2. Hire the right people for the right stage of growth
No matter what smart moves you make with your finances, if you don’t have the right people in the right roles, you won’t be able to grow. Yi Li, President of solar business Renergy, found early success starting the company from her dorm room at LSU. And while she trusted her leadership team, they all mostly fell into their roles—she found her VP of Operations packing boxes at the warehouse, and their sister became the VP of HR. They did a great job, but didn’t have the kind of experience she needed to move the company into the next stage of growth.
As the company grew, she knew she needed to get the right people with the right experience in the right seats. She worked with one of our CEO Coaches to determine:
- The organizational structure that made the most sense for her e-commerce business, focusing on roles first, and then people.
- The key considerations for each role on what necessary experience, challenges, opportunities, and constraints for each role needed.
She hired top talent and revenue jumped by $17 million in three short years. “The Make BIG Happen System has helped me grow my company from $25 million to $200 million in revenue in four years,” says Li. “My coach has helped me conquer my weaknesses.”
3. Bring focus to your role
Once you’ve worked on hiring the right people, it’s time to craft your role from do-it-all entrepreneur to laser-focused CEO. “In the early days, entrepreneurs tend to end up working in the business rather than on the business,” says coach and entrepreneur Patrick Eldon. “I was guilty of this as well. I would be doing customer support. I would be doing sales. I often see CEOs who are caught up in the whirlwind of the day.”
Your job as a leader should focus on just a few things: Vision, cash, hiring, key relationships, and ongoing learning. The more you can pare down your day-to-day tasks to these items, the more smoothly your organization will run.
That includes your big ideas to grow the business, too. Prioritizing the best of your ideas to achieve your annual goals can be difficult, which is why Eldon recommends a process called divergent and then convergent thinking. “[First], encourage the executive team to come up with all the different ideas that they think could move the needle on the leading activities. You’ll end up with a long list. That’s your divergent process,” he says. “Your convergent process would then be voting on those key initiatives and narrowing it down to your top five, creating owners for each of those projects. And then those owners would go and develop the leading activities, and those would filter down to their team, and so on and so forth. So you’re constantly measuring, keeping track, and ensuring that everything is aligned to achieve these goals that you’ve been setting.”
4. Always be selling
Taking your business to the next stage of growth means paying attention to sales and marketing in a way you may not have before. Whether you’ve already hired a sales team or rely more on a self-service model, you need to focus on connecting with your prospects and building a relationship. Says coach and entrepreneur Bill Whitehead, “Your customers don’t want to listen to someone read monotone words being spoken to them across the phone where there’s no connection to the person speaking to you,” says Whitehead. “But definitely people want to speak with and engage with people that know what they’re talking about.”
Every entrepreneur needs to brush up on their sales skills in order to grow. That means addressing customer questions before they become objections—and knowing when to talk and when to listen. “You would be surprised how many times, if you’ll allow a prospect just to verbalize everything themselves and bring it out, that they’ll solve their own problems,” says Whitehead. “Find out whether that objection is going to be a deal breaker in what you’re working on with that prospect, or if it’s even the real objection.”
5. Get a coach to help you through
Entrepreneurs constantly have to pivot, and as your business scales up, that’s even more true. “The same skillsets that got you from $0 to $10 million are not going to be the same skillsets that get you from $10 to $40 to $100 million,” says Iwamoto. That’s exactly why he hired a coach to help navigate the next stage of his business.
“I think the biggest cost to a business or you personally is what you don’t know,” he says. “You carry this ‘ignorance debt,’ and if you can get a coach that can help you pay that ignorance debt down faster you’re going to accelerate faster and reach your goal faster. And I think that’s exactly what CEO Coaching International did.”
At CEO Coaching International, we provide entrepreneur coaching to help entrepreneurs and CEOs grow. Our highly trained and battle-tested coaches have years of experience navigating tough situations with success. If you have questions or just want to connect with a seasoned entrepreneur who knows what you’re going through, schedule a complimentary, no-obligation coaching session today.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.