If you want to scale, you have to fire the COO

Dad! You're always on your phone!

That hurt. Especially when the response wasn't some LinkedIn direct messaging banter, but really something that had to be done.

So you want to scale

Does this sound familiar to you?

You're feeling a sense of burnout or overwhelm.

Or maybe you have tons of energy, are burning the candle at both ends, but business is just taking over.

You're doing something very right in your business. Your clients love your high-touch service.

You've built a small team to do the little stuff, so you can focus on finding new audiences.

You want to scale.

And you're a hands-on sort of person. You keep your finger on the pulse of every project, every client who chases you up. You take complaints quite seriously, even personally.

Your middle name is "overdeliver".

"You can get me any time."

"I never sleep."

You're the lifeline for your clients.

But you need to scale.

Notice anything about your scaling plan?

Yep. You're playing the role of Chief Operations Officer. Or (to put it another way), you're the single point of failure.

Now, I'm not saying you need to fire yourself. Obviously, that's the long-term plan ... or at least play the strategic role as CEO, instead of the fire-fighter COO.

You don't have to fire yourself from the whole business. But you do need to fire yourself as COO.

But for the time being, here's what will help you prepare to scale.

Don't start with the tools. Instead, start with your goal and especially your purpose.

Why did you go into business in the first place? Did you want to sell it eventually? Do you have an exit plan?

You didn't start a business to be reacting to phone notifications all day (and all night!)

So, instead of starting with what tools you need, work on your big picture. Not the money (although that will come into it). But what pain in your own world are you solving by running your own business? And, for your clients, what dragons are you slaying?

Be specific.

Next, create the process. Not in your head. In some kind of documentation. That might be a spreadsheet. It might be a screencast video. Pick one tiny part of the process that you need to get out of your head.

Then optimise it, even a little. Imagine you were unavailable, or had to do this in a rush, without chewing into your family time or your sleep time.

Then, show someone else how to do it.

And then - only then - do you start looking at tools. You might use a spreadsheet (not ideal, usually). Or Trello, or Asana. Or some other way of sharing with your team: "here's where we are, and here's what should be coming next."

Your aim should be to build a process which you can then hand off to someone else.

If you want to scale, you have to systematise. You don't have to fire yourself completely from the business. Not just yet. But you do have to fire yourself as Chief Operations Officer.

Stop the firefighting. Create some fireproof buildings.

Anthony English