The primary goal when you create leverage for business growth and scalability, is sustainability, both in terms of dependable revenue growth and ROI. In this article, we’ll explore a framework for next level business growth and go through some of the practical things you can do to get yourself there.
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I LOVE LEVERAGE … yeh I know, a little bit weird. Weird but true. Leverage for business growth is a wondrous thing.
As I go through laying out a framework for thinking about creating leverage for business growth and scaling that you can apply to your own business – you’ll see where I’m coming from – hopefully!
As some of you know, the focus in my own consulting and coaching businesses aligns on the goal of creating leverage – be that brand positioning, strategic marketing, operational improvement, curriculum innovation.
From leveraging your expertise in order to create a product people want and then taking that to market, there are things you can do across every dimension of your business architecture to leverage your time and the results you’re able to achieve.
From using digital tools to outsourcing and hiring, you’ll can get more done without you doing all of it. Leverage is the central tenet.
What Does Leverage Mean to You?
Be it solo business owners, small businesses or large corporate organizations, in a nutshell, I help people create leveraged strategies and harness digital technology, so they can work smarter not harder, because that’s what gives you the freedom to move to the next level of business growth?
And when I do talks or presentations for professional service providers and small businesses about leverage for business growth, I very often get asked ‘what do you mean by leverage’. And I speak about creating a leveraged business right through to “leveraged living” … which begs another question, and that is: How can something like leverage in your business enhance your life?
So let’s start with that, think about this for a moment:
What does leverage or leveraged business mean to you?
Because we often talk about leverage, creating more leverage, and leveraging this or that, but what does that actually look like in your business, and in your life?
For this, we need to track back to our vision and values – what’s important to us, where are we trying to get to…why are we doing any of this anyway. Generally speaking, your vision and values are your north star, they don’t usually change too much, even if our business strategy shifts or we have to pivot the actual idea.
Coupled with this though, the road to next level growth isn’t a straight arrow. AND you won’t necessarily get there by doing what you’ve always done or staying in your comfort zone – no surprises there, right?!
This means you’ll need to keep exploring your personal drivers and ambitions, as well as the capabilities and infrastructure you need.
So I’d like to kick off with a very potted version of my leveraged business journey and then turn to where you’re at in terms of stage of business and moving to the next level of revenue growth.
Leverage for Business Growth as a Core Concept
Because building a leveraged business is a core concept I landed on a couple or so years ago. I was in the middle of writing my book – Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age – but at the time, the working title was actually strategic marketing for consulting professionals.
And I was stuck. (For quite a long while too – I’m talking years not weeks or months – which really sucked. This is why I know all about spinning your wheels trying to get to the ‘that one core concept’ – and I know how to get out of that perfectionism-procrastination cycle now.)
Anyhow, I slowly came to the realisation that what I help people with is not just about marketing, it’s about the whole end-to-end process from ideation to implementation to build a business as an independent consultant, coach or other expert using the internet to reach more people.
Everything I’ve done since writing the book was practising what I preach so to speak. I leveraged my whole business strategy as well as repurposing content into blog articles and podcast episodes, that have now been running just over two years.
If you follow my work or you read my book, you’ll start to notice that the letter I is a very big thing for me. It’s where the iSuccess Business Academy comes from, the umbrella for the online education, coaching and mentoring we do, and a 90-day program, very similar to ACES. And this is about the time Danny and my world’s collided and I wound up becoming an ACES coach – go figure!
I’ve run a lot of different businesses over the past 15-20 years from my main consulting firm to networking marketing, online education and coaching. And I must have worked closely with literally hundreds of small to medium sized businesses from all kinds of industries, as well as big organizations, and there are several dimensions that always hold true.
Formulated in 2018, this became my leveraged business framework that I use in both my consulting and coaching/mentoring work today.
You see, creating leverage for growth isn’t linear, which means you have to step into the space of innovation in order to make changes that are more transformational rather than transitional.
How to Get from One Level to the Next
Scaling Strategies are not all about operations and Fancy Funnels.
What surprises people though is that it’s not all about operations or funnels or building a team. It’s also a lot to do with working on your entrepreneurial mindset and resilience when the going gets tough, when we’re doing things that are new to us, where we’re stepping out of the familiar, out of our comfort zone.
And it’s about having good visibility on your marketing and your financials, as well as the money mindset piece too, which maybe we don’t talk about enough.
When it comes to those next level decisions, you’re weighing up risks and rewards – it’s a bigger game than the day-to-day.
So this is the context in which I want to explore some of the dimensions for success with next level revenue growth.
Danny Iny introduced me to the notion of an Expert Business Roadmap. It’s really good for illustrating the stages of business and suggest where your strategy needs to focus to get from one stage to the next….
When we think about Strategy, we can think about bottlenecks and solving problems or constraints. We want to be clear what we’re solving for, and work out what’s standing in your way. It’s exactly the same for next level growth.
One way to make sure you are focusing on the right problem is to think through what stage of business you are at and look at the bottleneck for that specific stage and focus on it.
Example, the bottleneck for Stable runway is to figure out financing, possibly get a part-time job or contract while you get the business off the ground.
Offer-market fit is all about rapid prototyping, while consistent marketing is focused on investing in lead generation and conversion practices, capacity constraints, marketing constraints, processes and systems. And this is where you often see the need for investment, or you see current systems and tool creaking at the seams while you burn out trying to juggle all the moving parts of your business.
As your business grows, your strategy shifts, and this is why many of our clients, whether in the iSuccess Leveraged Business Accelerator stay for multiple 90-day plans. Or they upgrade into the year-long ACES business acceleration program I coach on. Many of them stay year after year, because we help them navigate both growth and next level step-ups.
So what stage of business are you at, would you say?
Once you are crystal clear on what the current bottleneck is, which is fairly typical for any particular stage of business, then breaking it is generally a worthwhile objective for your next 90-day strategy. And sometimes it takes iterative changes and innovation over a year.
So while our focus in the early stage of business is all about leveraging our expertise, it’s only once you’ve really established you have a viable offer and have a consistent way to get it in front of people and sell it, when you should then be looking to ramp things up.
When your revenue is between $100K to $1 million, creating leverage for business growth is about moving the needle on the challenge of scaling up capacity and marketing. Whichever you figure out first will propel you to the next revenue level.
While there are some ‘typical’ timeframes for these stages, how long it takes really does depend on what you bring to the table, time, assets, skills etc as to how fast you can go and how much support or outside help you’ll need to invest in.
While there are some ‘typical’ timeframes for these stages, how long it takes really does depend on what you bring to the table, time, assets, skills etc as to how fast you can go and how much support or outside help you’ll need to invest in.
There’s a lot that has to happen before you begin to think to ramp things up.
From a revenue perspective, before you put serious efforts into leverage and scaling strategies, you’re looking at getting to 2-20k, enough to validate the business idea or a new offer, and people’s willingness to pay for it.
When to Start Building Systems or Hiring People
The stage where you should start to think about LEVERAGE through building funnels, systems, team etc is after you’ve got proof of concept for your business. , The blueprint is clear and you’ve got the basic foundations in place – you can clearly articulate what you do, who you do it for and why, and people are willing to pay you to help them. Great – you have a viable offer in them marketplace.
Now you can focus on building on your success – and do more of the same until you hit capacity. Or just before.
Let’s face it, many independent consultants, coaches and other expert practitioners have zero leverage in their business. They are super busy but not really at capacity. Is this you?
Assuming you can get clients signed up in the first place, you’re either busy on delivery – working with clients working too many hours for too little money.
And/or you’re busy running around doing all kinds of marketing and sales to bring in leads and new clients, and often experience a feast and famine kind of revenue rollercoaster.
This isn’t helped if your business website is not designed to “sell” either – if it’s just a glorified CV – this is very unleveraged effort. There’s little point working tirelessly to attract prospects to your website if you don’t make a clear call to action or offer, you have no means of capturing visitors’ contact details or no structure to following up with them.
And even if you do get a prospective client to call you to book a consult call, you’re unlikely to sign them up if you don’t have a framework for that call or you don’t have anything tangible to offer.
A lack of clarity, structure and competence punches massive holes in your business performance. Yet from my consulting work doing website reviews for small businesses, I see it all the time.
So these things are really important to have dialled in. They all give you strong leverage points.
So before you get to the bigger next level growth strategies, the key things to focus on for leverage are copy, calls and closing – the three Cs. Until you’re at capacity, focus on those 3 aspects of your business operations – that’s the best leverage you can create for your business before going forward and upward.
Once you have those pinned, there are many ways to use leverage for scaling either your fulfilment/delivery or your marketing/sales. So let’s go there next.
Using the S.C.A.L.E. Model to Plan Next Level Growth
The SCALE model is another lens you can use to look at scaling. It’s the picture at the top of this blog post. Here, I’ve laid out how to create leverage as a series of steps that start with basics of managing your own time better (and thus freeing up time to work ‘on’ the business) – I call this the Transactional step.
This is from my book p. 114 if you have the print version – about 30% in if you’re have the kindle. And if you have the audiobook, you can download all the figures tables and quotes in the Resources download page I give you. Contact us with your book order receipt if you need that link again.
The main thing I want you to think on here is the three Ts at the bottom – because the transactional steps to growth are fairly straight forward, the transitional steps may present challenges in managing technology teams.
The transformational steps are a lot about what we teach in Mirasee – creating online courses as digital products or hybrid programs. When you have the right people, the right systems, this becomes something that’s easily scalable to push you to next level revenue growth.
So the big question becomes how to make it happen for yourself when there seem to be SO many moving parts, so many options, and so many different things you could work on.
Going back to the business growth roadmap, once you have product market fit, you need to get clear on what’s predictably working or likely to work predictably, and do more of it, and intentionally work on creating leverage based first on your strengths not your weaknesses.
There may be any number of things in your business that are not be working as well as you want (true for every business everywhere!), but most of these things will not move the needle in terms of revenues or profitability, so let them be sub-optimal for now.
Transactional, Transitional & Transformational Strategies
When you’re starting out, for this pre-revenue stage of business, where you need to focus your leverage is on getting to product-market fit and then consistent marketing.
What you need to focus on is the transactional elements – leveraging your expertise, getting clear on your messaging and positioning, and packaging offers.
After that is creating the next level of leverage in the business requires much more operational planning.
I’m a big fan of planning – because, as they say: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
I’m also a big fan of harnessing the key enablers. Innovation is a big part of what enables growth and scalability.
First, new product creation. Here your focus should be on rapid prototyping – ideation, pilot process, validation, to create runway revenue.
Second, your focus is on getting consistent, dependable revenue. You’ll need to drive traffic, generate leads and put mechanisms in place that help move seamlessly to a sale.
Your key success factors are to:
– Play in your area of strength, work on your development
– Plan for the long term when you have cash, clients and consistency
The discipline at this stage is to focus on things that have the potential to increase revenue or profitability by at least 10%.
Once you’ve exhausted all opportunities for leverage at the transactional level, the next step to powering up for scalability are more transitional.
Here, you need to look to bottlenecks, surface and assess all your options, and then make a decision what you will implement. This becomes your strategy – lean into that; and don’t get distracted.
When you’ve dipped around a bit, and have added things more randomly, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. In this case, the best place to start looking at your growth plan is to do an audit of where you are at, look at what’s predictably working in your organisation, and where the constraints are.
- How does your business make money today? One of the best pieces of business advice – find out the last thing that really worked for you and do more of it.
- What are the buttons, when pushed, make you money? Think not only in terms of steps or systems, but also in terms of the customer experience and your levels of service as a key differentiator.
One of the best pieces of business advice I ever received is this: find out the last thing that really worked for you and do more of it
If you simply double down on what’s working, and do more of it, then consider where the constraints are in terms of how big your business can grow, then that’s the best starting place for leverage.
And, what would you need in order to be able to double down on what’s working? You might also ask yourself this: what do you want to be doing more of or less of? And why, why is that important to you.
For the real big steps in your growth journey, the keys to create leverage for scaling your business lie in a more transformational approach. This has much more to do with your business model than any marketing automation or sales team you might put in place.
That’s not to say you have to wait to do the transactional and transitional things first. There are some transformational leaps that you can think about right away, such as going from coaching/consulting > products or services not delivered by you one-to-one.
Choose Innovation that Builds on Success
In terms of choosing options, think about whether you’re focusing on innovation – marketing something new, or on capacity building – delivering more of the same.
You want to avoid a strategy where you’re changing more than one thing. Either go with the same product and modality, offering it to a new audience or go with the same product and audience, using a new modality.
What are the power enablers – the things that help you to create products that people actually want to buy, and understanding your return on investment for creating them.
- Intimate knowledge of your customer base
- Thought capital / your unique point of view
- Quick ideation & prototyping cycles to find what resonates
- Systems that create leverage across the entire end-to-end customer journey
- Customer experience and levels of service
- Key roles you can outsource or hire to take care core functions
- Keep visibility on your key performance data and finances
Let’s turn now to some key options for growth – there are three that spring to mind. But you can keep using the theory of constraints to surface more possibilities for your business.
Increasing Lead Flow
If you have established offer-market fit – you know who you’re selling to and how to attract and convert them, then you don’t have a sales bottleneck, your bottleneck is in the scale of this.
Focusing on driving traffic into your marketing and sales process can transition your lead generation and client flow and get you to six figures.
On the other hand, if your list is still in the 100s or 1000s, you may need to diversify how people discover you or how you convert leads into sales conversations or buyers. And hopefully by this stage you have way more clarity and confidence in what you do and who you do it for.
Getting more visibility on your value through a referral approach, strategic partnerships or speaking engagements maybe doesn’t faze you so much, and will provide great opportunities to get in front of a bigger audience and other people’s spheres of influence.
If you have a reasonably large list of a few thousand people, your best option might be more around creating more opportunities to launch new offers and see what resonates. From there, you’ll want to grow your list by another order of magnitude, rinse and repeat.
Start with a blog post or social media post about a topic and see if people engage with it. Run a short webinar or workshop and see if you get take up. (And don’t forget to look at what your competitors are doing, what kind of themes are coming up, what are they offering, what are they charging.)
You want to take the temperature before putting a lot of work into creating a new product or service – pre-sell it, then build it.
Another quick way to test an idea and grow your list is to run a small batch of ads to a free training or low-cost product.
For increasing capacity, the first place to start is doing a time audit – how many hours are you spending on each dimension of your business. For instance, under the banner of ‘business development’ or BD – what proportion of your working week are you focused on generating new leads, nurturing leads in the pipeline, conducting sales calls, running promotional events, delivering to clients.
How much time do you carve out for R&D (such as designing a new product or service)? And what hours tick away doing general administrative tasks.
How much time is taken up with distractions due to working from home? (I’m going to be tackling this in a new three-part series next month.)
Ideally, you’d want to spent 25-30% of your time on BD in order to keep up existing lead flow and bring new clients in to maintain current revenue levels.
If you want to grow your business by double digits, you might seek to find a solution for your time spent some admin tasks so you can increase your time spent on BD to say 40-50%.
Generally speaking, aggressive growth targets require more aggressive proportion of time and more innovative strategies! And that translates into spending possibly 10-15% on R&D and learning new skills or hiring in skills and talent.
If you are not seeing good steady business growth, then it’s likely you’re not spending enough time on BD and R&D.
And if you are managing to spend the time chasing targets more aggressively, are you remaining in a good mental health space? If you feel burnt out or overwhelmed, chances are in time it will defintely interfere with your ability to think strategically and creatively, to spend the hours needed to learn new things, solve problems and implement solutions.
If you have decided that you need to free up your time, then make a list of everything that you personally don’t need to do or aren’t too good or fast at doing. Admin and onboarding are usually first to be delegated or outsourced.
Be assertive and precious about freeing up your time, hire someone!
Shifting Your Delivery Model
Creating leverage that really takes you beyond six or multiple six figures generally requires more transformational strategies.
If you’re wanting to scale up what you currently do, you’ll need to look to hiring and training a team of people who can do what you do.
If you’re wanting to scale up how many clients you can support without taking on a team, you will need to shift how you deliver what you do.
A good target can be shifting the balance from 1:1 work to 1: many. Typically, this means creating self-study online courses, running group trainings or offering group-based coaching programmes.
Much of the time what we do 1:1 can work just as effectively delivered in a group setting – You can always have a blend of the two for deeper more individualised work. You may need different skills to facilitate group sessions effectively and efficiently, but it’s perfectly do-able.
From a cost-to-deliver perspective, it’s truly transformational. I’ve handled group programmes in previous articles and podcasts, but this is where it fits into the leveraged building model for scaling your business.
When you have decent lead flow and a decent sized list, offering group programmes can be a game-changer. While there’s a place for the deeper work that 1:1s can deliver, for a majority they are not ready for this and welcome a chance to work with you in a more affordable way.
A group programme will suit different needs and so will deliver different results to your 1:1 work, and can offer a beneficial client experience in terms of being part of a supportive community of like-minded people.
In practice, what’s super cool is that you can actually make this transformation to online group programmes, transitionally
E.g. If you’re doing100% 1×1 coaching, 0% group coaching/products, you can shift towards 75% 1×1 coaching, 25% group, and then create products around some of the more foundational aspects.
To think through how this might work for you and your business, consider:
- What do you do that can be productized?
- What does your target market want that you can productize?
Identify Your Best Points of Leverage
Next, I’m going to focus on the key points of leverage – in terms of processes and the in terms of people. It’s possible to go overboard or not get started at all because you are imagining SOPs for everything! Don’t do that.
Here are some things to consider as you start planning where you can create leverage for scaling your business.
First, start with the key dimensions of your business operations – your end-to-end customer journey and customer experience is essentially a pathway to Engage, Educate, Enrol.
Second, only put in system or process if it simplifies (reduces errors) or makes things efficient
And third, be aware of your Capacity constraints – if you’re system for delivery is overwhelming you, then get that in order before you go looking for more clients – there’s a quality issue at stake
There are additionally 7 inner workings in this flywheel that enable you to find leverage points in how you clarify, package and scale what you offer.
There’s a lot of leverage for business growth that you can create by getting much more clarity on your messaging, target audience, and positioning– how you communicate your offer – the red to orange side of the wheel.
There’s a lot you can do around your pricing strategy and offer structure – how you package your offer – the amber to yellow dimensions
Be prepared to work on these areas before moving to the real scaling dimensions. Leverage stems not only from systems and scaling strategies – the green upper left dimensions, although that’s what I’m going to focus on next.
In the table below, I’ve outlined on the left side some of the processes in terms of workflows and systems that simplify, automate and make things operate more efficiently – operational management. And on the right is the people side of this.
|KEY POINTS OF LEVERAGE||OPERATIONAL MANAGEMENT||OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE|
|Processes, Systems & Tools||VAs, Hires & Team|
Systems to save time
Tools to support planning & time tracking
Templates & workflow docs
Systems to track tasks
OPS & MARKETING DIRECTOR
Systems to streamline & automate
CRM/email marketing & autoresponders
Tools to plan & publish content
Systems to book meetings, manage follow up
Systems to invoice or take online payments
Bookkeeping tools & systems
Course delivery platforms (LMS)
Practice management systems
Developing New Skills & Capabilities
While it makes sense to play to your strengths and do things you’re already good at, as I talked about earlier, to create leverage for business growth, it’s also important to learn and develop new skills and capabilities.
You may have heard of Lev Vgotsky’s zone of proximal development and the concept of scaffolding – that is putting in place the support constructs that help us move from what we can do to what we can’t do.
Well, this is where entrepreneurship and education co-exist. You will need to step outside of your comfort zone where you’re doing familiar things to being outside your comfort zone when you’re doing something new, especially for the first time.
This is how you develop competence and confidence to operate in new areas and have them feel comfortable further down the line. So think about the areas where you (and/or your team) could personally do with some support to innovate, learn and grow.
If you’re embarking on a plan to create leverage for scaling your business, you’ll want to start with you. You’ll need to free up some time so you have the required bandwidth to do the strategic work, research the options and plan the changes.
(Or of course you can just hire an operations person who can take it all on and work with you either on creating the plan and/or implementing the plan.)
Once you’ve decided where your biggest bottleneck is – you, your marketing, sales or delivery, start by creating workflows for repeat tasks, and templates for emails & docs you frequently use. Follow these four steps:
- Identify your high leverage processes
- Create templates and workflows
- Simplify, delegate & automate
- Implement time-saving systems & tools
Making Decisions – Operational vs Personal
So the final step – once you’ve done an AUDIT on your time and tasks, once you have visibility on your key performance measures, is to DECIDE where you will start. Your leverage strategy can be multi-faceted, just make sure you’re tackling the highest leverage things first.
Start with a good hard look at the real ‘on the ground’ way that your business operates. Within the areas and functions that are PERSONAL AND STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE to you, your customers, and your business, where are there opportunities to create leverage for business growth?
Then think of the roles and positions that are really key to delivering to those. Ask yourself the question: “If these key positions were vacant tomorrow, how would it affect the business?” Furthermore, identify key competencies, skills and success factors that are critical to the people in those roles doing the job effectively.
If you’re the founder and CEO of your business, it can be incredibly hard to hand over the baton to other people, since you’re used to doing things yourself, your way and it’s often intuitive and not necessary pinned down as a workflow that someone else can take up and run with. So there’s a good starting point, pin down your SOPs.
Planning for growth requires new mindset and new ways of working. Once you have a team, things shift. And it’s not just in the sense of structural and practical matters.
There’s an important personal and emotional level that often requires a mindset shift. When you’ve built up a successful company, you’ve put your heart and soul into it, blood, sweat and tears. It’s entirely normal to want that to be recognised, maintained and continued by anyone your hire.
At the same time, few markets are static and every business needs to innovate at some point. It’s part of risk management for future growth. Developing a culture of innovation, creativity and collaboration can make things really fun and take some of the pressure you as the sole problem solver and ideas person!