The Accidental Entrepreneur is a type of business owner I’ve run into many, many times in my career – in fact, they’re some of my best customers! They sit down opposite me (or on the other end of a Zoom call), looking like they haven’t slept for weeks and clutching a coffee mug as if their life depended on it. “I’ve no idea how I got here,” they tell me, “and no clue of what to do next!”
What’s their problem? Are thier businesses failing? Not at all – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Accidental Entrepreneurs are victims of their own success: people who’ve come up with a great idea and executed it so well that their business has mushroomed out of all proportion. They’ve grown so fast that they’ve created a monster, and now they’re struggling to keep it under control.
By the time they get to me, Accidental Entrepreneurs will often be doing multi-six figures with a healthy profit margin. However, after their initial spurt of success their progress has stalled and they find themselves on a plateau, having to spend every ounce of energy servicing their existing customers and fighting the fires that are increasingly breaking out in their business.
They’re stressed, overworked, frazzled, and simply have no capacity left to think about upgrading their systems, evaluating their customer journey, or any of the other strategic planning you need to do if you want to scale efficiently. They’re giving everything they’ve got just to keep their business surviving day-to-day, and burnout is starting to loom on the horizon.
Why do so many business owners end up in this state? And what can they do to break out of this doom spiral?
Who is the Accidental Entrepreneur?
This may sound a little strange at first, but it’s true: most entrepreneurs don’t set out to be entrepreneurs. Instead, they’re driven by their passion, whatever that may be, to create an innovative new product; to provide a best-in-class service; to meet the needs of a certain kind of customer. They don’t think about what they’re doing in terms of growth, scaling, investment, exit strategies, or any of the other terms we use to describe the art of building a successful business.
So, motivated by this passion, they set up a business, and because they’ve got something special about them – a talent and drive for delivering their core service, a knack for building relationships, or simply sheer grit and determination – they make a success of it. They start building their customer base and developing their offering, increasing their turnover, and expanding their capacity to deliver value.
As they go along, they cobble together the tools they need to serve their expanding pool of customers as and when they need them – a website, mailing list, client database. However, none of this is done with a long-term strategy in mind. Instead, new pieces are added on to the business willy-nilly and stuck in place with duct tape, creating a rickety structure that threatens to fall apart under the slightest pressure.
All of this holds together only through the constant effort of the founder. Everything in the business is built around them and depends on their micromanagement to function properly. It can be very difficult for some entrepreneurs to let go of this control – when you’ve made something special with the sweat of your brow, it’s hard to trust others with your creation.
But once your customer base has reached a certain size, it’s simply too big for one person to manage.
The result of all this is that the Accidental Entrepreneur spends so much time servicing their existing business that there’s none left over for strategic thinking or long-term planning. Not only does this mean that their business can’t grow, it also guarantees that when things go wrong it turns into a crisis, because they have no spare capacity to tackle the problem properly.
It’s at this point that people usually become aware they have a problem and call The Business Catalyst for the solution!
Helping Accidental Entrepreneurs take control of their businesses
We always begin by taking a walk through our client’s customer journey from start to finish. This allows us to identify the part of their business where we can create the biggest impact for the smallest investment of time and resources. This will not only be different depending on what kind of product or service our client is selling, but also influenced by the existing processes and systems.
It might be that our client needs to do more to pre-qualify customers at an early stage in their journey, perhaps through a form or questionnaire. This will make sure that they’re only talking to people who actually want or need what they’re offering, rather than wasting time on people who aren’t going to convert to a paying customer.
Or, it may be that they need to do more work around their initial call with the customer, whether through a pre-call email that primes them with the information they needed to make an informed choice, or with a post-call follow-up that makes them feel valued and engaged.
Most importantly, we’ll find a way to help you make these improvements without adding to your overall workload. We do this by taking a holistic look at your role in the business and identifying which regular tasks can be removed from your daily routine, either by passing them onto other team members or through automation. You’ll be amazed by how much time you can recover by clearing away all those low-impact, five-minute jobs that clutter up your day.
For instance, one client of ours knew that to grow her business, she needed to focus on upselling compatible products to customers who were already purchasing her core service, but she simply didn’t have time to do this on top of her other responsibilities.
Our solution was to make room by automating other parts of her workflow – for example, creating email sequences to communicate with prospective clients, and using notifications to remind team members about new work and deadlines. This gave her the space she needed to focus on the activities that would allow her to scale her business, breaking her company out of its growth rut and taking it to the next level.
If you’ve got passion, talent and a solid business proposition, it’s definitely possible to get through the first phase of your entrepreneurial journey on hard work alone. However, you’ll eventually reach a point where adrenaline won’t carry you any further, and the systems you’ve bodged together start to creak under the weight of your own success.
If you woke up this morning to find out you’ve become an Accidental Entrepreneur, then it’s time to reach out to The Business Catalyst! We’ll help you take a strategic overview of your business and show you how to create the headroom you need to get back on the path towards sustainable growth. Get in touch today and we’ll show you how to unlock that free time you’ve been craving.