3 Examples Of Being The Bottleneck And How To Get Out Of It
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
I’ve talked to a hundred entrepreneurs on my podcast. I’ve coached and mentored dozens of business owners and start-up founders.
There’s one thing I’ve learned about entrepreneurship: It’s a calling! Sometimes, it takes longer to awaken it (it took me 18 years), but I came to realize there’s no in-between. Either you have it or you don’t.
Because of that, no entrepreneurs set themselves up to fail.
No entrepreneurs believe they can't do it.
But it happens more often than we'd like to think.
Usually, the company's founders have locked themselves into a situation they can't get out of.
They know something's wrong, perhaps they've seen some signs or people have warned them, but somehow, they don't act.
Call it ego, fear, or lack of accountability. It doesn't matter.
Because of their inaction, the company doesn't move forward either.
The consequences can be devastating. The bigger the company, the bigger the impact (think Nokia or Kodak).
That's what I call becoming the main bottleneck in your business, and it's the biggest risk you face.
There are many ways you can be a bottleneck, but the price you pay is always the same: you're stuck.
And when you're stuck, your business is stuck.
How to tell if you’re the bottleneck in your business?
Some of the most frequent symptoms are as follows:
You work hard, not counting your hours but your workload doesn’t seem to decrease
Your people don’t make decisions and aren’t accountable
You’re busy fixing problems rather than thinking about strategy
You’re frustrated by the entire situation
Let me share 3 practical cases so you understand better.
Worrying too much.
In my case, when I worry, my inner judge sends me an uninterrupted flow of questions like What if this or that goes wrong? - Am I good enough at what I do? - Why can't I find more clients? - Should I stop doing what I do and find a 'real' job? - Why are they more successful than me?
It's amazing to see how much time I can waste trying to answer all these questions and reciting these stories despite their absolute uselessness.
I give them so much importance they prevent me from moving forward.
It’s a nasty vicious circle.
As a result, I feel trapped.
So, I’m stuck. Therefore, my business is stuck.
I’m the bottleneck.
Many entrepreneurs get buried under the many tasks they deal with daily.
They suffocate and cannot see a way out.
Also, many entrepreneurs never take some time off, because they're afraid it would slow them down and make them lose the next big opportunity.
Usually, both go hand-in-hand.
There’s a difference between being slow and taking a break.
Being slow is when you spend 1 month writing a proposal that could have been done in 2 days, or when you know you must act but procrastinate.
Taking a break is when you allow yourself to stop for a while to recharge the battery, and take a step back, so you can get back at it with full force again.
One way leads to you being more efficient.
The other way gets your head even more stuck in day-to-day operations, without being able to take a step back and breathe.
If that’s the direction you’ve chosen, you’ve just become the main bottleneck in your business.
When you're afraid of letting go.
I had a client who was supervising all his customers’ projects himself. He reached a point where he realized his position was unsustainable because he couldn’t find the time to do anything else (like taking a step back and looking at the big picture).
He was telling me he loved the interactions with his clients, which is why he was deeply involved with them.
So, we started digging and found out he didn’t actually want to delegate the responsibilities to someone else.
We dug a little deeper, and we uncovered the cause of the problem. He was very proud of the high-quality standards his clients benefited from, standards he’d spent years building. The truth was he was afraid of seeing a significant decrease in quality if he was to delegate project management.
In other words, he couldn’t let go. And because of that, he was stuck.
And let me repeat it when you’re stuck your business is stuck.
You now understand he was the bottleneck.
You may wonder what happened to my client. Well, we worked out a solution to not only ensure the quality of its services wouldn’t decrease but we used the situation as an opportunity to improve it (if you're interested, you can find his testimonial here).
Addressing The Bottleneck
You first need to understand that there’s no differentiation between you and your business.
Simply put, you ARE your business.
When you are tired, your exhaustion transfers to your business.
When you’re stretching yourself too thin because you do too many things at the same time, your business stretches too.
When you don’t perform at your best, your business doesn’t either.
But the opposite is also true: When you're strong, your business is strong.
So to avoid becoming the bottleneck in your business, you need to perform at your best. It means, you should:
Realize you are your business
Learn the business skills required to run a company (e.g. sales, marketing, financial management, leadership, etc.),
Develop the human skills necessary to perform at your best, both mentally and physically (e.g. resilience, discipline, empathy, endurance, strength, etc.).
Unfortunately, you can't just 'learn' and 'develop' overnight.
Of course, business skills can be taught or outsourced but human skills are harder to teach and impossible to outsource.
They need to be nurtured from within: It’s a personal journey and a life-long process.
Entrepreneurship starts with you before it translates into a business. If you make it a priority to work on yourself (through coaching for instance), you will put yourself in a situation where your business blossoms.
This article is an extract from my special podcast series The Entrepreneur Alphabet. Listen to the episodes on your favorite podcast channel or watch them on YouTube.