My entrepreneurial journey began with a passion for arts education and a desire to become a business owner. In 2007 my wife and I decided to acquire our first business, a fairly well-established music school with 6-figure annual revenues. I had zero business experience at the time but a lot of confidence that we would be successful as business owners and operators. Ultimately we did very well, but the first several years were humbling, to say the least, and took our business to the brink more than once.
There was just so much to learn. Still, through a lot of trial and error and with the help of business coaches, I was getting better and better at owning and operating this business. We built our business brick by brick, but our successes came with growing pains. With an increased number of clients, we needed more staff to support them. At the same time, quality of staff and their work performance became an issue, requiring us to train them to become better at their tasks. With those who could not or would not improve we had our first difficult conversations.
As owner-operators, my wife and I performed many key functions in the business. Over time, personal exhaustion and overwhelm as well as a better understanding of best business practices led to task delegation and more diversified staff roles.
My dream all along was to turn this business into a million-dollar company. Generating $1m in revenue with a music school for kids? Yes, as unlikely or crazy as that may sound! But that little music school not only reached but ultimately exceeded that goal!
The most important and most profitable lesson I learned on the path from 6 to 7 figures was the power of marketing. It was mainly marketing, marketing, marketing that got us to that number! Not that growth was a perfectly straight line, but by and large, growing to $1m in revenue was an iterative and additive process of doing more of the same, doing it better and better, and getting consistently better results.
Then things changed.
When our ambitions led us to acquire a second school in another state nearly two thousand miles away, we suddenly found ourselves catapulted into an entirely new universe. We’re just going to do the same thing as we did with the first school–rinse and repeat–we said, as we signed the closing documents of the deal. But for a great variety of reasons, we quickly discovered that operating in multiple states took us into new and very uncomfortable territory. There was no rinsing and repeating the strategies and tactics that led us to victory in our first location. If that wasn’t clear on day one of owning the new school, it certainly became a very painful reality when Covid struck and kept us locked down in our home and away from both businesses.
To win with a multi-state, franchise-like model, we needed an entirely new and much more robust infrastructure, one that is designed to be reliably repeatable across current as well as future locations, wherever we choose to have them. With that in mind, new systems and procedures had to be created and implemented consistently, and new technologies were introduced to maximize efficiencies and transparency. New positions had to be created, and stronger management had to be hired, among many other fundamental changes in the way we do and think about business.
It was very hard work, but that second school is already larger than the first, and we’re about to open #3, a start-up that will benefit on day 1 from what we have learned.
The transition from 6 to 7 and now towards 8 figures has been an incredibly exciting journey for me! Finding the right strategies and tactics to get us there led me to a deep exploration of the Scaling Up framework, which I am now ready to share with others as a business coach.
If your business is on a similar growth trajectory, you are likely facing four different barriers to continued growth:
Multiplying your operation requires a larger number of more effective leaders who together with you as the owner/leader can then function as the senior leadership team. The search for these individuals can be challenging especially in today’s market.
A growing company is becoming more complex as size increases. It requires not only more hands on deck but also continuous organizational evolution. New roles and reporting relationships are added, while old ones may become obsolete. Equally important, more complex operations require the proper technology to support the operation and keep the trains running on time.
Marketing continues to be the big driver of growth. But past the $1m mark, marketing is not only needed for bringing in new customers but also for attracting high-performing employees to help facilitate company growth.
Finally, growth sucks cash! Growth initiatives (people, marketing, facilities, systems, etc., etc.) require access to significant funding. Cash may need to come from a variety of funding sources, but should, ideally, come from revenue generated by your own customers.
The Scaling Up framework offers many tools to overcome these barriers to growth across the four areas of decision making: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.
I would be very happy to discuss any aspect of this system with you. All you need to do is schedule a free strategy call with me.
In the meantime, enjoy the ride!