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Preparing For Quantum Leaps 

It’s always amazing to see a business take a quantum leap successfully. One of the most exhilarating experiences for any entrepreneur is to jump to a new level of income, capability, satisfaction, and usefulness. This can often appear to happen quite quickly: We’ve seen entrepreneurs increase their revenues by millions within the span of a quarter. But, far from being the result of some rapid shift or instant “ah-hah,” these apparent quantum leaps are almost always the proverbial “overnight success several years in the making.” Hence, the topic of this month’s article: how to prepare for quantum leaps.

Over many years of coaching, we’ve noticed that, regardless of the unique characteristics of the entrepreneur or the industry in which he or she operates, there are some common factors that provide a solid platform for big jumps in results. Before we explore these, let’s look at some of the challenges entrepreneurs face when they think about what it would take to get to the next level.

No Time To Think About The Future.

Many entrepreneurs don’t have much time or energy to focus on growth because they’re so tied up in the day-to-day complexities of their business. The first challenge is to free up enough mental energy and creativity to be able to see the opportunities that abound for growth, and to understand which of these are most appealing and aligned with your longer-term life goals. If you think about your company as having two parts — a “present company,” which is what exists now, and a “future company” that represents where you’re going — the ideal situation is to be able to have time to focus on both. You want to be able to take care of the present company so you’ll have the resources to get where you want to go, while also growing the future company so you know where it is that you’re headed. One is keeping the train engine stoked and the boxcars maintained. The other is making sure there’s always track laid down in front of you

Too Much Focus On The Future, Not Enough On The Present.

Some entrepreneurs like to focus on the future company because it’s more exciting, but the present company is what makes the future company possible, so it needs to be constantly strengthened and attended to as well. Entrepreneurs who make quantum leaps successfully have usually learned how to strike a balance between focusing on their present and future companies. They get their daily operations running well so that more time, resources, and creativity are available to devote to growth plans and strategies.

Capability Doesn’t Match Opportunity.

This brings us to the issue of capability. One of the great challenges of growing a business is that opportunity and capability don’t always grow at the same rate. Big opportunities can be exciting. They can also be nerve-wracking, stress-inducing, and a great strain on the business if the size of the opportunity is not matched by the size of your capability to respond to it. For those who find themselves in the position of having taken on too much opportunity for their current level of capability, it can be like having the fire hydrant turned on when all you wanted was to quench your thirst.

For the entrepreneur focused on growth, a lack of capability can look like “water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” You can see opportunities in front of you but you don’t know how to capitalize on them. You don’t have the time, resources, systems, or structures necessary to comfortably take on the new challenges involved. You can see where you’d like to go but you don’t know how to get there.

Companies that make successful quantum leaps have generally spent years striking a balance, building capabilities that enable them to be stretched without breaking, and investing in the future while also taking care of the present. This touches all areas of the organization. It means having a clear vision of your unique talents and strengths as a company; a confident, growth-oriented team; effective, scaleable systems; great capacity to find and train the right people; skills at delegating, outsourcing, and creating strategic partnerships; and effective communication and problem-solving capabilities. For the entrepreneur, it also means giving up any “rugged individualist” tendencies to hold onto and control everything. Quantum leaps take a tremendous amount of cooperation

Building a Platform For Future Opportunity.

These are all obviously important capabilities for a business to have, but how do you go about building them? The answer, in our experience, is a bit at a time, over a period of about three years. Here are some of the critical activities that have to happen in that time:

Take Free Days™.
The best way to develop these capabilities in your organization is to take Free Days: 24-hour stretches in which you’re completely away from the business — no homework, no dropping in, no communication. With you gone, the team can’t ask you what to do next and instead have to rely on their knowledge and resourcefulness. This can help to build a culture based on “progress, not perfection” where occasional mistakes are actually the raw material for learning, and for developing new and better processes.

Identify your Focus activities.
One of the most useful ways you can protect your time and attention is by figuring out what your “Focus activities” are — the things you do that create your biggest results.

Practice the art of delegation.
As you start handing over non-Focus activities and taking more time off, you learn the art of delegation. In turn, your team hones their role in this process, learning to take on and achieve those tasks, and communicate with you about their results.

Focus on increasing your confidence.
Your team’s expanding abilities lead them to feel more and more confident about taking on new pieces of the business. They feel supported in bringing their personal ideas and creativity to these tasks. You, in turn, feel more confident about your opportunity to focus on your best abilities.

Be in charge, not in control.
Over time, you and your team learn that you, the entrepreneur, can be in charge without having to be in control. As the captain of the ship, you don’t have to keep running down to the boiler room; you can focus on turning the wheel according to your map.

Envision your bigger future.
Having a vision of where you want to go gives a context for all your efforts and keeps you focused. Every new opportunity can be measured against the “bigger future” you want to create.

Discover your Unique Ability®.
Your “Unique Ability” is made up of the talents that get you the best results and that you’re most passionate about using. You and your team members each have a personal Unique Ability, as does your organization. These emerge out of the unique wisdom, processes, and relationships you’ve developed through the years. There’s something special about you that your clients value, something you add that brings them back to you — and that’s Unique Ability.

Foster organic growth.
Nature favours structures that work. Some mutations equal extinction, whereas others develop into whole new species. Likewise, your organization’s Unique Ability represents “what works” about your business’s evolution. This is the soundest platform for all your future growth. Concentrating on the process you use to deliver your wisdom, and building more value into each of the steps in it, will create sustainable growth. You’ll be buffered against the temptation to chase every opportunity just because you can, or to be all things to all people. Unique Ability keeps you focused on what makes the greatest difference for your target audience and what’s most valuable in their eyes.

A New State of Readiness.

What looks like a quantum leap from the outside is usually the result of lots of preparation — accruing wisdom out of experience, building relationships with other people whose growth goals are aligned with your own, and refining the methods and systems you rely on to get results.

Platform-building is a vital part of lifetime growth for any entrepreneur. Creating the systems and structures that enable growth also strengthens your present company. That’s why we see most entrepreneurs double their income in the first three years of our Program while they’re focused on this set of challenges. What’s really interesting is how, almost without exception, and with little extra effort, growth speeds up dramatically after those first three years, once the platform is in place.

Think of it this way: You’ve taken much of the wasted energy in your business life and redirected it toward creating results. You’ve also developed a keen sense of awareness about yourself, your team members, and your business’s fit in the marketplace. This extra energy and awareness allows for a new level of insight and creative vision. Rather than focusing internally on the challenges in your business, you are able to look outward to where your best opportunities lie. Your readiness even attracts new opportunities and you are able to deliver on these in a way that builds your healthy reputation in the marketplace.

In the process, you’ve now built a growth-oriented culture in your organization. The effort it takes to do this is rewarded by the fact that with a little maintenance and direction, you and your team can continually identify and take on new growth opportunities with relative ease. It simply becomes what you do. Decades of experience have shown us that this path represents the most promising, lucrative, and personally enjoyable path for any entrepreneur.

© 2007 The Strategic Coach
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