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Skill Sets: What You Have vs. What You Need

In my previous blog, Leave the Plateau Behind, I wrote about the two most common issues that keep small businesses from moving past the period of stagnation that typically follows initial growth: lack of delegation and lack of governance.

While these are the most common issues we encounter when helping clients rise above their plateau and jump-start growth, they are not the only challenges. Another is skill sets.

Process charts concept

Entrepreneurs Are Not Enough

When a business is starting out, the predominant skill set is that of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur’s primary skill is getting things done. He or she provides the energy, resources and ideas that move the organization forward. At this stage, things are happening quickly, and tactical decisions that generate cash flow are paramount.

Eventually though, whether it takes years or decades, the company reaches the dreaded plateau. Growth stops, and the business remains essentially the same size. At this point, it is essential to step back and evaluate every aspect of the organization. As noted above, implementing proper delegation and governance is necessary. I also strongly suggest reevaluating the prevalent skill set.

The entrepreneurial “doers” that got the business off the ground are no longer enough. That is not to say they are no longer needed—they clearly are. But they may not possess the tools required to do the planning and develop the strategy needed to advance the company to the next growth stage.

What needs to be added to the employee mix is a “big picture” skill set. Specifically, the business needs people with strategic planning and budgeting skills, as well as those who can implement functional coordination and operational control. This means:

  • Hiring managers who are focused on the company’s future, rather than just its current condition
  • Adding systems and procedures that support growth
  • Making decisions enabled by data, not just instinct

But Wait, There’s More

While these changes are essential for growth, they are often at odds with the company’s prevailing culture. This brings us to another issue that is generally ignored until it is too late—organizational change management. I’ll talk about that in a future blog.


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