How to Sprint Past Early Stage Struggle to Strategic Planning for Growth

Fact: when you start a business, a company’s success is in direct proportion to struggle.

It has to be that way. You are running the show. In fact, you ARE the show: the main actor, the ticket taker, the promoter, and the custodian.

According to a survey by The Alternative Board, 30 percent of entrepreneurs work between 50 and 59 hours a week while 19 percent work more than 60 hours per week. A telling question surveyed how business owners would spend time if they had more of it. Only 8 percent felt their life was in balance with 54 percent readily admitting they would spend more time with family and friends, and traveling for fun.

Takeaway: people running businesses are crazy busy.

As advisors to small businesses poised for big growth, Apex sees the struggle and exorbitant effort business owners expend — especially after their business takes off and earns measurable success. Why is this? Why doesn’t the early stage struggle ease off as success rises?

I don’t have a doctoral degree in, well, anything, but I do understand the concept of “Pavlov’s dogs.” Basically, this classic theory of psychology states people behave a certain way on cue. Bingo.

Business owners continue making decisions that cause struggle because that is what they have always known. The feeling of struggle becomes familiar — even analogous to success. They think: Must work myself to the bone if I want to move the needle. The signs: looking at your list and feeling utterly overwhelmed or having a desk buried in files and paper or over-committing on tasks that could easily be delegated to someone else.

Perpetuating owner struggle holds a business back in serious ways.

When we are trapped in a cycle of struggle, we gravitate toward the things that brought us to that point. These same decisions, however, won’t take us to the next level.

One of my all-time favorite books is “The Goal: a Process of Ongoing Improvement” by Eliyahu Goldratt. The book was written in the boom time of the 80s (hard to remember CD rates of 14 percent, isn’t it?). The book is fantastic and really speaks to the topic of how early stage thinking is like a best friend to entrepreneurs.

Mr. Goldratt equates entrepreneurs of high growth businesses to the slowest runner in the class. They slam their feet into the ground. They don’t use their energy to the best of their ability. They are in a constant state of urgency without a plan.

All this impedes their ability to run faster. The analogy describes leaders who use a lot of energy but not in the way their companies need in order to evolve. Here’s a 15-point checklist to move past early stage struggle to strategic planning for growth.

1. Slow down to accelerate forward.
2. Take your time and do a deep assessment of where you are.
3. Be intentional.
4. Get team members involved.
5. Craft a strategic plan and stick with it.
6. Be strong – you have to be mentally tough to ride out a plan — it may get stormy.
7. Delegate extra work to team members.
8. Invest in efficiency-driven systems.
9. Invest in technology that saves time.
10. Build trust by believing in your people.
11. Trade granular thinking for big picture thinking.
12. Avoid distractions and stay focused on the big plan.
13. Clearly define roles for team members.
14. Know your internal leaders
15. Champion and recognize great work

The opposite of struggle is freedom. One culprit to freedom is delegation. It’s hard to give it up (honestly, I struggled with this [read my confession blog post here] until one day I realized I had to strategically plan and nurture leadership or Apex wasn’t going to grow. Period.)

DELEGATION: Top Excuses That Hold Leaders Back

30% feel they’re “the most capable option”
20% employees “do not have the right skills”
20% say they are “in a hurry to get it done”
19% say they “like doing the tasks”
Source: The Alternative Board


There are nine internal and six internal variables for most high performing businesses. What happens when a leader tries to address all areas? Sensory overload. Your hard drive crashes.

Solution: Map out a strategic plan. Be confident in the plan. Rally your team to support the plan and be part of the plan. Lack of structured strategy means you are running the business like you always ran it. Change your fuel.

So go ahead and sprint. Break into a fast run — move from early stage struggle to strategic planning for growth. Here’s a quote from “The Goal” I think you’ll appreciate:

“Progress in understanding requires that we challenge basic assumptions about how the world is and why it is that way. If we can better understand our world and the principles that govern it, I suspect all our lives will be better.”
— Eliyahu Goldratt —


1. As your company grows, let go of early stage struggle.
2. Many business owners get lost in the weeds.
3. Trust your team.
4. Ask: How would you spend extra free time? Include that goal in your strategic plan.
5. Map out a strategic plan and stick with it.

Apex CPAs and Consultants, Inc., is the largest CPA firm headquartered in the Tri-Cities. Apex’s Fu-tureBiz program helps growth-minded business owners achieve life goals through the success of their business. Contact Apex at 630-584-4555. The firm is located in St. Charles, Ill.

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