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Friday, 07 July 2017 09:38

Dear entrepreneur – this is why you are overworked and underpaid

As their business grows, some entrepreneurs find themselves working harder and harder at their desk and/or micromanaging staff instead of meeting with customers and working on strategy – a bit of a paradox considering that growth should ideally free up more and more of a business owner’s time to do these things. They may even find that all the work they put in doesn’t seem to yield proportional, positive results on the bottom line. In our work as business coaches for growing businesses, we often find this to be the reason:

Many entrepreneurs start small when building their businesses from the ground up. To accomplish what they need to, they do a lot of work themselves as opposed to hiring it out, they don’t invest in “fancy” communication or financial reporting systems – preferring to use tools like email and Excel spreadsheets for these purposes. They adopt what is called Organic Systems to process day-to-day activities of a new business using the limited resources available to the business – which may be perfect considering the many constraints faced by start-ups, and the relatively smaller workload.

These systems work well in the early days but become ineffective as the business grows because they were not designed to handle high volumes of transactions or interactions. The higher volume of business requires new systems and processes. These systems and processes are known as Engineered Systems and are purposely designed to manage high volume of transactions flowing through the business. Engineered systems can help streamline your work, improve effectiveness and productivity, and ultimately help you reduce costs and/or improve revenues.

Gearing up for growth – where do you start?

  1. Start by listing all your current business processes e.g. sales, invoicing, production, etc.
  2. Then prioritise your most critical processes (e.g. those that you know are not working, or those that have a bigger impact on your bottom line), the people who are accountable for them, and the KPIs with which you measure the effectiveness/efficiency of those processes. This Process Accountability Chart tool can help you do that.
  3. Map out all the steps in your prioritised processes to discover how the processes are currently being run, and what systems (which may largely be organic systems) are currently being used to support them.
  4. The next step is to develop a view of how the processes should look, given the changing needs of the business – how you want them to work, what the process steps are, and what supporting engineered systems you need to help you carry out those processes.
  5. Once you have developed a view of your ideal processes and systems, it is time to implement them, which, be warned, is often the hardest part because of a tendency of people and organisations to resist change – but it’s very doable.

The reality is that these new implemented systems may not necessarily remain effective as your business continues to grow so they will need adapting. The upside is that you will be focusing on what is essential to any business: to keep growing. So as the owner of a growing business, have a look at where and how you spend your time. If your increasing efforts make you feel like an overworked, underpaid employee in your business, then maybe your systems need a refresh.


Article by: Graham Mitchell, Business Coach and CEO at GROW Business Coaching


GROW is a premier business coaching firm that works with over 70 companies a month to accelerate the growth of their businesses, people and profits. They support business owners with training and practical tools that can be quickly and effectively applied to achieve results. For more information please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.grow.za.com. You can also follow Grow on Twitter, @GrowCoachingSA.