In this article I wrote a while back, I outline two routes that lead to success. Fun is one of them. Fun is one of only two valid stages for your business to remain indefinitely (the other being Predictable Success).
For many business owners, Fun is as far as they would like to go. Often, they earn more than ever have before, and they have the freedom to do what they love. This freedom may be something in the business, sales, consulting, or product design.
It may even be something outside of the business. When appropriately structured, a business in Fun can run with very little input from its owner.
That said, staying in Fun can be a tricky business. As businesses grow, they become increasingly complex until that complexity overcomes the organization’s ability to fight through and win the day heroically. You are so busy you start making mistakes. Errors increase. Revenue and Profit start following different (and sometimes opposite) trajectories. The business just doesn’t feel very Fun anymore.
When this starts to happen systemically across the business, you’ve moved into Stage 3: Whitewater, and you are forced to choose if you want to move forward through Whitewater into Predictable Success or let off the gas a little and get back to enjoying your time in Fun.
While most of my articles are about getting through Whitewater, the truth is, most founders choose to stay in Fun. So I wanted to write this article to show you how to do that and thoroughly enjoy your time in Fun.
How to stay in Fun
To stay in Fun, you need to keep out of Early Struggle and avoid getting caught up in Whitewater, and here’s you do it.
Focus on selling as much of what you already have to the smallest market you possibly can. So let me break that down.
Sell as much of what you already have
Here are two things that make the Fun stage fun. They are selling and creating. The problem is, doing too much of either of them can knock you write out of the Fun stage. While you probably like creating more than selling, it is the more dangerous of the two. Visionaries like yourself can cause a lot of problems by creating and pursuing too many ideas. Most of your stress in Fun actually comes from your own tendency to create too many new projects and pursue too many new opportunities.
The solution is to be disciplined at work. It is way easier to hand off selling what you have than to hand off selling something new. So build your business around selling what you have and then go scratch your Visionary itch somewhere completely detached from your business. Then leave your people alone to sell as much of what you already have as possible. Finally, keeping the good things going.
To the smallest market, you possibly can
This one is hard too. Remember, the enemy of Fun is complexity. The bigger your market is in terms of product, geography, etc., the more complex it is, and the more you need to be there to keep it afloat.
I often encourage small business owners not to open a 3rd location unless they absolutely have to open 30 locations. It’s not worth it. Three is so much harder than 1 or 2 because it forces you to develop 90% of the systems that will get you to 30. I’ll write an entire article on just this one day, but today, let’s leave it here. There is such a thing as one step too many for your business, and taking that step will, in turn, mean spending more time working and making less money doing it.
By focusing on the smallest market, you can actually counter-intuitively make the most of the economies of scale for an organization of your size. Here’s a simple choice to illustrate. Would you rather make a $1M profit selling to 30 countries or just one? The vast majority of the time, both are possible. The latter just takes a little more discipline.
Four practical steps to enjoy Fun for the long haul
Here are the four things you need to do to make the most of your time in Fun.
- Build the System for Operators. Find yourself a #2 you trust—someone who loves to get stuff done. Then build the company not around that person but around that type of person. Raise up, heroes. Hire and promote Operator types who have a bias toward action. You want to get A-players who think on their feet and know how to solve customers’ problems creatively. Set clear goals, track your metrics, and then pay your top-performers well and share the stories of their heroic deeds with the whole company. We call this group Big Dog Operators, and they are critical if you want to optimize your time in Fun.
- Focus on creating a consistent marketing and sales system for your existing market. The goal here is predictable, repeatable sales, and you will not achieve that goal if you are the only (or primary) sales rep. You need to transition the sales responsibility from the Founder to a sales team. It’s a tricky transition, but it can create incredible growth in sales without adding undue complexity when done right.
- Keep other processes to an absolute minimum. You need to implement some processes here but be careful. Too much process will bog down and complicate an organization fast. Continue to resist the urge to over-process and keep a hard limit on employees who are not directly related to sales or fulfillment. Leaning on contractors is often a great strategy. Limit processes to front-line work for quality control and ensure you have enough i’s dotted and t’s crossed to keep Uncle Sam and his governing and regulating siblings happy.
- Say “Yes,” a little less. In Early Struggle and even the beginning of Fun, you survived then thrived by saying “Yes” to just about everything. If customers were willing to pay for it, you’d find a way to deliver it. As the organization grows, one of the prime drivers of complexity is saying “Yes” to too much. If you keep your focus on your market and keep new products and services from getting out of control, you’ll be able to keep that additional complexity at bay. Remember, to do this, you need to scratch your Visionary itch somewhere outside of the organization.
If you are in Fun, you probably want to enjoy this time and stay there for as long as possible. There’s no rush to get into the next stage, Whitewater. Check out this course, Optimizing Your Time in Fun, to learn more about these four steps and how you can apply them to your organization. If you enroll today, you’ll get immediate access to the Predictable Success playbook for making the most of this great time for your business!