Entrepreneur

6 ways to grow a successful small business without going crazy

(Editor’s note: Clate Mask is co-author of the New York Times bestseller Conquer the Chaos and CEO of Infusionsoft,. He submitted this column to VentureBeat.)

The lifelong “company man” has become a relic of the past. New businesses are being launched in record numbers as the Internet lowers the barriers to entry and levels the playing field.

But most startups fail. In the next 12 months, 600,000 new small businesses will be created in the U.S. alone. By the end of the year, half will have shut their doors forever.

It’s chaos running a startup. And chaos turns entrepreneurial dreams into a nightmare that can bury startup owners who can’t keep up with customers and prospects.

The symptoms of chaos are often little things that are overlooked: Missed little league games and disappointed loved ones. All nighters and cold dinners. Slowly, the business consumes the entrepreneur’s life and too often, destroys everything.

I have spoken to thousands of small business owners over the last decade and they have all experienced chaos at some point. My partners, and I experienced it as well while growing Infusionsoft.

But it doesn’t have to be inevitable. In our new book Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Business Without Going Crazy, we detail a six-step process to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses quickly and more effectively. Here’s a quick summary of the method:

Build your emotional capital. Emotional capital is the currency you use to wake up every day and fight the battle. It’s the passion, enthusiasm and positive outlook that propel you through your day, keeping you driven to achieve your goals. It’s the balancing of work, family, and emotional and physical health.

Assert your entrepreneurial independence. You decide the fate of your company. Conviction is essential to making things happen.  As you navigate difficult decisions you will be tempted to question just about everything you do. Self-doubt leads to seeking approval and advice. Entrepreneurial independence requires you to strike the balance between ignorance and arrogance — learning what you need to know and what you need to ignore. By the way, one of the reasons business owners seek additional input is because their objectives are not clear. If you haven’t decided the objectives of your company, figure it out. And figure it out fast.

Practice disciplined optimism. If you are going to survive chaos – and survive it well – you must be prepared to handle all the pain and unpleasantness that comes with running a small business. It starts with an undying belief that your startup will achieve the success you have envisioned, while at the same time confronting and attacking the brutal facts of your current reality

Centralize and organize your stuff. Entrepreneurs face especially complicated situations. Corporations have hundreds, even thousands, of people to do the same job you’re trying to accomplish on your own with a small staff. Unless you’re supernaturally organized, you’ve got information, reports, records and financial statements everywhere. What if you decide to take a vacation or you’re sick? To build a solid business foundation – and get one step further out of the chaos –  you’ve got to centralize your operations no matter what size your startup is. If you don’t get organized, it’s a safe bet you’ll go crazy soon.

Tap into the magical power of follow-up. The moment we realized how important follow-up was to our company, Infusionsoft, we quickly transformed our small business into a multimillion-dollar company. Now, several years later, we’ve seen thousands of businesses grow fast by fixing their follow-up. When you fail to follow up, you’re losing out on incredible opportunities and causing yourself more pain and frustration. You’re stunting your growth and prolonging your partnership with chaos.

Burn the to-do list and move from manual to automated. Automation is the key factor to saving you time, money and manual labor. But automation also tends to be the one principle that is missing from most small businesses. Automation is intentional and purposeful and it will propel the entrepreneur out of chaos into liberation. Big businesses have learned to automate everything possible. But most small businesses are havens for manual, grunt labor that wastes time, costs money and enslaves the business owner to the business.

We’ve found that once these strategies are in place, you can focus on and actually see results in growing the business like never before. Chaos will try to creep in, so it’s up to you to pay extra attention to it and squash it when it appears. The first step is recognizing the symptoms. Once you do that, you can conquer it. And that elusive “freedom” of being your own boss becomes a reality.


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  1. [...] 6 ways to grow a successful small business without going crazy … Sep 7, 2010 … Clate Mask, JD/MBA from BYU, is the co-founder and CEO of software company Infusionsoft. [...]

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