Overcome Limiting Beliefs to Growth

When I first started out on my own, I was an independent business consultant for energy service companies. After leaving my corporate sales management position in Honeywell, I swore I’d never hire employees. Fast-forward 4-years, I hired my first employee… then my second and quickly grew to an office of five employees.

It was about then, that a business consultant came knocking on my door.

I’ll never forget his words. He said, “Jeff, you’ve got a business, that you’re treating like a part-time job.”

He was right. For about five years, I had sold projects to complete renovations for facilities to make them more energy efficient. At first, I was the engineer, project manager, salesman, bookkeeper, and anything else that needed to be done. As I would sell more projects and got more overwhelmed, I would contract out to other professionals. Eventually, I hired employees.

Since I had become independent five years earlier, I had a limiting belief that employees and growth meant more work and less freedom. This belief limited me from dreaming and growing my business. It also ensured that I would always be “busy” and “needed” in my company.

The Day I Decided to Grow

That day with the business consultant was the day I decided to take my business seriously and create a growth plan.

It wasn’t easy. Up until that point, I had done all the selling and felt that I was the only one who could get my message right. My first new hire on my growth path was a salesperson.

It was a disaster. But I didn’t give up. I hired additional salespeople who did great. I continued to hire others as Ennovate Corporation continued to grow. Within a few years, I was managing 10-people and felt like Ennovate was as big as it could get without promoting some of my employees to leadership positions.

The Management Dilemma

I needed help managing my growing company. But I didn’t know how to make the transition. You see. I had two major problems. First, I wasn’t convinced my current staff was ready to manage other people. Secondly, the people I wanted to promote to manager were doing such an awesome job. If I promoted them to manager, I would lose one of my best workers and would sentence them to the penalty of being an administrator. I was convinced that our productivity would drop with such a move.

Instead of promoting my own staff, I attempted to hire older and more experienced people from outside of our company to take on the role of manager. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the way we did things in our company and were unable to lead teams of more experienced employees. In most cases, my employees were educating and training these new managers and not the other way around.

Ennovate’s Happy Ending

Eventually, Ennovate Corporation grew to 30 employees. We had five teams with five managers running each team.

The folks managing my teams were indeed the most talented members within each team.

Over a longer time-period than I’d like to admit, I learned that I could train and mentor my talented staff into the role of manager/leader without losing their talent and work effort in the process.

I eventually sold Ennovate to Ameresco and we merged our two regional groups of employees together.

Lessons for Other Business Owners

As I coached a variety of small business owners, I quickly recognized the same limiting beliefs in them that I had a decade earlier. It didn’t matter if they were a restaurant owner, a small manufacturer, or an engineering firm. These business owners were struggling with growth.

The limiting beliefs of growth go something like this:

  • Each time I grow, I’ll have to work harder

  • No one cares as much about this business as me

  • My people are not responsible and lack business acumen

The problem with a limiting belief is that there’s some past event that you can point to in your history to validate the belief. While you’ve had bad experiences in the past, those bad experiences are one-time events that are not indicative of the TRUTH.

The more painful the experience, the truer we think our fake lesson is.

I don’t know you. But, if you’re a small business owner, chances are that you have achieved some level of success and you’re hanging on for dear life hoping that the economy doesn’t crash and you can find enough customers to stay afloat. You spend half your time wanting to leave your business and the other half trying to survive. In those moments when you experience some level of success, you think about growing, but why? You’re happy where you are.

What can you do?

Dream Bigger

The first step is to “dream bigger”. Don’t think about your next step… think about a vision 10-years from today. What will your business look like at 10X its current size? Who will be running your business so that you don’t have to do all the work?