This is the third post in a series about four things that need to be in place in order to scale your business:

  1. Enough self-awareness and vulnerability to face your fears.
  2. A people plan.
  3. Systems – technological & human – that can take you from here to the next level.
  4. Absolute confidence that your revenue model is ready for prime time.

I’ll be working my way through each of these one by one. Last time, I wrote a bunch of stuff about step 1. You can go read it if you like.

Now, when you look at #2, I want to know how many of you are looking at that and saying, Oh, that doesn’t apply to me. I’m a one-person show, and I like it that way.

If that sounds like you, I am about to drop a bomb on you, because – and I say this with a ton of love and compassion – you are almost certainly wrong. In fact, you probably need a people plan more than anyone.

I know, I know – you have so many great reasons why your business is all about you, just you, and you for miles:

  • You make something totally unique, handcrafted maybe, hand-delivered, customized for each customer – and that personal touch is what they’re paying you for.
  • You can’t afford to hire anyone.
  • You work from home, or your local coffee shop, and you never ever want to set foot in an office again – and hiring people would require office space.
  • Your whole plan when you set out on this path was to create an independent life for yourself, where you didn’t have to worry about anyone else, and could just earn your own paycheque.
  • You don’t want to grow, damn it – because small is beautiful, because the world is addicted to growth and it’s a sickness, because you prefer the status quo.

I have been where you are. I said all of these things, once. And I hated it when people told me I had to grow. (I hate it when people tell me I have to do anything.) I rejected The E-Myth. (Who wants a freaking franchise business? All it conjured to mind for me was strip malls of sameness in suburbia.) I rejected (and still reject) the notion that growth is inherently good – at least, when we’re talking about growing in size. (Our planet can only support so much more human-driven growth.)

But – you knew there was a BUT coming – the question is, when you speak those words of resistance to growth, do you feel free or constrained?

Some of us stay small and that fulfills and liberates us. Most of us, though, have needs that evolve as our businesses become more established. We get tired of dealing with the invoicing or proposal writing. We long for a weekend that doesn’t involve packing shipments while our friends are out enjoying themselves. We feel nostalgic for the good old days when we had time to come up with new creative concepts, rather than just running from one meeting to the next.

Those needs are not going to go away unless your business does. You must find someone to take the unnecessary or unwanted stuff off your plate so that you can focus on the things that only you can do – or you will be spinning your wheels in this rut forever.

What breaks my heart is that some founders reach this point, and rather than grow – which carries its own risks and fears of failure – they choose to close up shop. They can’t reconcile their desire to build something small-scale and unique with the demands their growing business is putting on them. Their project is growing faster than they are prepared for. And their response is to reject the growth and get as small as possible. (Invisible, even.)

It’s an understandable response – it’s completely human – but for most of us, it’s driven by fear, not freedom. We want to avoid failing on a larger scale, so we preemptively tip over the game board and go home.

It’s less scary to fail small.

But: There is a difference between elegant, sleek smallness and constricted, stifled smallness. Only you know where the tipping point lies – so you must be ruthless with yourself when you ask: Where is my fear of failing bigger keeping me on the constrained side of small?

Here are some more questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling like you couldn’t possibly hire anyone to work for you:

  • What tasks would you immediately give up doing if you could? How much time and stuck energy would releasing them free up? What is the value of that time and energy to your business?
  • How much R&R time per year would you like to have, in an ideal world? How much more creative would you be if you were well-rested and took regular breaks? What is your capacity to take those breaks right now? What is the value of your creative energy to your business?
  • How independent do you feel right now? How would you like to feel? Is your business supporting you in becoming more independent? If not, how would you like to change it?
  • Cast your mind back to the first job you really loved. Recall the dedication, care, and creativity with which you tackled that job. Now imagine hiring your younger self. How would your business benefit from having mini-you on board? What new projects, milestones, heights of customer service and creative output could you reach?
  • Think of a person who embodies mastery of your chosen field. Consider their expertise, wisdom, efficiency and effectiveness. Now imagine hiring that person to work for you. How would your business benefit from having a seasoned veteran on the team? What would that look like?

Journal your answers; write them in the comments below; or call a friend and talk them out. And hey, if your answers paint a clear picture that you really do feel perfectly supported as a solo act with no one else on board, that’s fabulous! There are definitely some businesses that can thrive with a single person at the helm – they are just few and far between. Most of us need someone, even if it’s a virtual assistant or an intern, to help out here and there. And that’s who this post is for. Those of you who are where I once was: suffocating from overwork and unable to see how hiring help could make me breathe easier.

(Next time, I promise I’ll actually move on to one of the other numbers, because it must be clear by now that this has been another post on fear – #1 – in disguise. I’m sneaky like that.)