If you had to guess the single hardest thing to do in a business, what would you say? Fire someone? Invest in something that carries risks? Cut back salaries? Maybe bring on an investor or a business partner?
I’ve watched women do all of these things, and I’ve done them all myself. But they’re nowhere near as hard as what I’m talking about.
For the last several months, I’ve been working with a woman who’s growing a financial services company. As she brought on more and more clients, she hired more employees. But not all the employees were working as efficiently as she needed them to, and many made mistakes that she had to fix. So she found herself spending hours resolving client issues, working late into the night, training and retraining employees. I could see the exhaustion taking its toll, and her sense of overwhelm was enormous.
She did one of the hardest things you can ever do in a business. And it wasn’t to let her employees go. It was much harder than that.
And since she did it? It’s like I’m working with an entirely new person.
Here’s what she did.
She tore it all down in order to transform it.
This business owner went one by one, evaluated each of the clients, assessed the level of energy and support they each required, and determined how much her team enjoyed working with them. She let those clients go that didn’t serve her business. Then she went through each employee and made decisions: She turned some over to clients to become their full-time employees, she let some go, and she increased the responsibilities of others.
She completely simplified the business. And, in doing so, she drew down the top line revenues—something she’d worked for months to achieve.
What she realized, though, was that just because she’d been bringing in more money hadn’t meant her business was making more money. All that time spent fixing problems, all that extra time employees needed to serve clients, it had come at a cost—the cost of profit. Many of those new clients were actually not profitable, and they were costing her money.
Today I’m looking at someone who can breathe again. She can sleep. She can think with clarity about how she wants to rebuild this business.
Sitting in the rubble is a gift. You cannot build something new on top of something unstable. Sometimes, you need to tear your business down in order to transform it.