As your business grows and scales, there will come a time when you realize you’re the bottleneck that’s preventing your team from moving forward. And, in all likelihood, this will happen again and again in your business as it grows and changes.
As the business bottleneck, you’ll often notice that projects get to you and then stall out — not because your team doesn’t have the skills or the know-how to move forward — but because they’re waiting on you to let them do it!
Clogging things up from time-to-time isn’t necessarily a thing you can — or need to — try to avoid entirely. It’s enough if you’re aware of the signs so that you can quickly identify when you’re creating a business bottleneck and address the issue so it doesn’t negatively impact your organization and your team for too long.
Part of avoiding business bottlenecks has to do with building a reliable team. Once you have a team to support you, your workload lessens. It may not happen overnight but, eventually, you’ll be able to pass more and more off to your team. If, however, you find that you’re still doing far more of the day-to-day activities than you plan — and usually at the last minute — then there’s likely an issue to address.
The most common symptoms of bottleneck-itis you’ll likely notice are:
- Your team can’t function without you.
- Your team is constantly waiting on you for follow-up.
- You end up doing all the things because no one else can.
- There’s too much that lives only in your head.
- You need to approve every single thing before it goes out — even when you probably don’t need to.
So let’s look at why this happens.
Lack of Infrastructure
When everything lives in your head, there’s often a lack of documented systems in place. When that’s true, your team can’t help you even if you want them to. This means you are the knowledge repository for the business and your team, so everyone has to come to you for answers and won’t be able to find solutions on their own.
The answer here is to start building systems and processes to support you and your business. Consider tasks that are repetitive in nature — especially ones that happen mostly the same way each time. If any of these things are particularly time-consuming, systematizing them will have a big payoff in the long run.
The Control Factor
It’s also possible that you’re struggling to let go of control. As your team grows, you have to put more and more trust in them — and this isn’t always easy. It’s perfectly normal to be a bit apprehensive about turning things over to others that you used to manage alone.
It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation though. You can use the systems you create to help let go of control. When you have documented processes in place, it’s far easier for your team to execute the way you want each time. Each time things get done right, that will also build your trust in the team.
You can slowly prove to yourself that you aren’t the only one who can do it.
Maybe the Business Bottleneck is Mindset
As much as you may want to delegate more and do less, sometimes there’s something holding you back. It may be tangible things, like a lack of infrastructure, or less intangible things, like control and mindset. As you shift your role in the business away from doing and towards leading, your mindset needs time to catch up.
Again, this is perfectly normal and totally manageable, but you have to take steps to work on your mindset to support your role as a CEO. Check out this post for more on this here.
Or Maybe the Business Bottleneck is Resources
Another common reason you become the business bottleneck is when you’re missing some key resources. In some cases, this could mean you don’t have the team support that you need to execute the amount of work and deliverables you complete each month. In other cases, it can mean that you don’t have the right type of support in some areas.
As my business has grown, tech has become a huge business bottleneck for us over and over again. Finding skilled tech VAs that are reliable and affordable is always a challenge. Combine that with a variable demand depending on what our retainer clients are working on makes it an even bigger challenge! So, it’s been far too common that I end up filling in the gaps on all things tech that we support our clients with.
However, as the demands on my time grew, this became more and more of an issue. I simply didn’t have the time to properly tackle tech projects — and it’s not my favorite type of work either. This combination leads time and again to me being the business bottleneck that prevents a smooth workflow for the team.
Once I recognized the problem, though, it became easier to tackle each time!
So, consider if there are any areas of your business like this where you are filling in the gaps either due to specific skills or because the team doesn’t have the time to get to certain items.
The Other Side of the Business Bottleneck
As impossible as it might seem, you can resolve the core issues that are causing you to be the business bottleneck. Once you identify why it’s happening, you’ve already won a huge portion of the battle and can start to find the right solutions that will help you strategically move forward! At the end of the day, you can improve things and be the CEO you’ve always imagined.