If you are looking for help with your business, you might want to check out our book let go to GROW: why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential. In this award-winning book, we cover how to grow your business from micro to small and from small to midsize profitably.

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marketing sales growth Q. I read your book, Let Go to Grow. I’d like to grow my company into what you call a fully developed midsize business —one where the business effectively runs itself on a day-to-day basis so that I can focus on more strategic issues. Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time. Are there some businesses that just can’t get to this point?

A. First, thank you very much for reading our book. We hope you found it to be helpful.

The short answer to your question is, yes, there are some situations where it is very difficult or even impossible to grow a company into a fully evolved midsize structure. Such companies are not easily scalable. Those businesses tend to have one or more of three characteristics.

1. The owner has a unique skill set – If the owner’s skill set is so unique that it would be difficult to hire another person to do the primary work of the business, the enterprise is not scalable. For example, it would have been essentially impossible for Rembrandt to have scaled his business. No one else had his skills. As a painter, Rembrandt was stuck in what we call a micro business structure—one where the owner does the primary work of the enterprise. The same could be said of great composers like Beethoven, Brahms, or Bach. Having phenomenal skills in a particular area like these masters is an amazing gift, but it will make your enterprise almost impossible to scale.

businessman you tattoosQ. I am starting a new business. Initially, I’ll be working alone—a solopreneur. I am thinking about renting an office rather than working out of my home. What do you think?

A. We have both worked in offices and out of our home, so we have some prospective on this issue. Obviously, there is no one right answer to this question. The answer that’s right for you depends on your specific situation and what is most important to you. We’ll outline some pros and cons, suggest a few questions to ask yourself, and give you an alternative that may not have occurred to you.

Pros – In our home, we have a beautiful office over the garage that is separate from the rest of the house. It has a fireplace, wet bar, bathroom, large partner desk and more built-in file drawers and bookshelves than we have been able to fill. Working from home meant that we eliminated the morning commute. At home, the dress code is extremely casual. Our two cats can come by for a pat on the head in the middle of the day—or just about any other time they wish. These are all good things. In addition, working out of our home saves us the costs commonly associated with an office including rent, janitorial services, and utilities. The big pros to working out of your home are convenience and cost.

manager photoQ. I've reached the difficult decision that I need to terminate one of my employees. What is the best way to handle this?

A. Terminating an employee is a big decision and never easy for either party. When making a decision to dismiss an employee, we suggest the following three steps:

Make sure that you gave the employee the opportunity to succeed. Ask yourself . . .

1. Did I carefully and specifically explain my expectations to the employee and check that the expectations were understood?

2. Did I remove any roadblocks, internal to the company, which might have kept the employee from succeeding?

3. Did I give the employee sufficient training and enough time to acquire and practice necessary skills?

4. Did I motivate the employee to succeed including giving positive and negative feedback as appropriate?

If you can answer yes to these questions and the employee is still underperforming, it may be time to make a change.

Make sure that you protect your organization. Virginia, like many states is “at will.” This means that you can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason at all. However, there are exceptions to this doctrine. Most of these have to do with terminations for discriminatory reasons. If you are not sure, speak to a qualified attorney or HR specialist.

terminatedQ. I'm sorry to say it, but the owner of the company where I work is the quint essential micro manager. He has hired three managers (I'm one of them), but he won't give us any decision making authority. I'm not sure why he won't delegate, but it's killing our company. Because everything has to go through the boss, we can't respond quickly enough. What would you recommend?

A. In the process of doing research for our book, Let Go to Grow; why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential , we interviewed the owners of more than 100 small and midsize businesses. One of the consistent patterns we found was that entrepreneurs had difficulty effectively delegating decision-making authority. The primary reason is that delegating decision-making authority means giving up a measure of control and that’s hard for many entrepreneurs.

Yet, if their businesses are to continue to grow, these owners will have to overcome their reticence to let go. Failure to do so will mean that the principal’s workload will continue to increase. At some point, they will be overwhelmed and out of capacity. These business owners will unwittingly become the constraint to growth in their own businesses.

This is a bad situation, but the only thing worse than not delegating when it’s needed is delegating before the proper infrastructure is in place. Doing so can send the business spiraling out of control before the owner realizing what is happening―we’ve seen it all too frequently. Putting the proper infrastructure in place to allow safe delegation means three things:

shutterstock 186656906 Q. I have a collections problem in my small business. Recently, accounts receivable have been growing at a faster pace than revenue. We have a particularly large amount of money in the greater than 120 days past due column. What suggestions do you have for solving this problem?

A. Clearly, cash flow is critical. It’s the lifeblood of every business. Without cash flow, businesses die. However, unless your business requires payment in advance, you will probably run into some customers who do not pay your invoices in a timely manner. We have found that following the four tips below will reduce the problems you will have with delinquent payments.

  • Be clear about your terms up front – People sometimes do not pay in a timely manner because the terms were not explained prior to credit being extended. Make sure you state your terms clearly upfront. Explain how long the customer has to pay the invoice. If there are penalties for late payment or interest charges, those should spelled out as well. Then, do what you say you are going to do. If you say you are going to start charging interest when payment is late, do it. Forgiving the interest can become a negotiating chip later. Also, make sure you are consistent about following your policies.
  • Be selective regarding the businesses to whom you extend credit – If you have had problems with a particular customer paying in a timely manner, consider not extending additional credit. Provide products or services only if these customers pay in advance. Over the years, we have worked with a small minority of clients to whom we would not extend credit again.

business man busy conceptQ. I’ve often heard two widely accepted parables in business that seem to contradict each other. The first is the stonecutter who strikes the rock 99 times with no result, but on the 100th blow, the rock splits. Of course it wasn’t the 100th blow alone that split the stone, but the 99 that went before. The message is persist. Stick to it even when you see no results. The second is the oft quoted definition of insanity which is, continuing to do the same thing again and again and expecting different results. The message is, if what you are doing isn’t delivering results, change what you are doing. Which is correct and how do you know whether to persist or change direction?

A. The answer, of course, is that both are correct, depending on the circumstances. To be successful in business, or any other endeavor for that matter, you have to be willing to persist when times are tough. Like the stonecutter, you have to be willing to continue working hard through patches where there are no visible results. At the same time, success in business requires that you be willing to change course when the current path is not getting you where you want to go. The question is, when to persist and when to change course.

“I HIGHLY recommend Polly and Doug. They have wonderful insight to help small business owners prioritize and identify strategies for growth and improvement. Wish I had met them 20 years ago!”

Sharon MaderePresident / Premier Pet Products

My team and I have had the privilege of working with Polly on our business. Polly's keen business insight and savvy is something special. She was honest, direct, and tactful about her observations and recommendations for our team and how to grow our business. It was a pleasure having her help us and I would tell anyone that’s serious about growing their business to call Polly. She’s great!

John O’Reilly, Broker/OwnerBase Camp Realty

“Doug and Polly, I want to thank both of you! The past few months have been enlightening and overwhelming all at the same time. Your guidance, direction, wealth of knowledge, and wisdom have exceeded all my expectations. No words could ever completely describe just how amazing of a “dynamic duo” you two really are!”

Dawn Beninghove, RN, CCM, CRP, PNChief Executive Officer / Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network, Inc.

“Doug White took on an unfocused operation (in the financial services sector) and created an efficient, centralized system dedicated to excellence. He did this not by driving change from the top down, but by helping the entire team see how their part of the process could be improved. Doug then mentored us toward effecting the changes ourselves. He taught us all how to bring our “A game,” and how to take ownership and pride in what we do.”

Donna LevinVice President of Operations / care.com

"I have had the privilege of working with Polly White for several years on a variety of projects. She consistently provides clear direction on how to resolve a wide range of employment-related issues. I look forward to my continued relationship with Polly."

Elizabeth WilkinsBusiness Manager / Manorhouse Management, Inc.

I have known Polly for more than ten years. As an HR Manager, I have utilized Polly’s training expertise at my former company and with my current company. Polly exceled at assessing the needs of our management teams and tailoring training programs that resulted in visible positive change. I also know I can count on Polly as a resource on any HR topic or bounce ideas off of her when I need a second opinion. Polly has been a mentor to me and I have always appreciated her willingness to listen and offer valuable advice and expertise.

Leigh McCullar, HR Business PartnerUniversity of Richmond

I am truly impressed with the abilities of Doug and Polly White, thank you! What a difference your expertise have made in helping Associates grow in their careers. Your dedication to excellence through empowering the individual and strengthening the Company is enlightening. I do and will continue to recommend Whitestone Partners to the Executive Market.

Suzanne Pittman, MEd VAMAC, Inc.
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