Friday, March 19, 2010

How do you scale a business when you're selling yourself?

All big businesses started out as small businesses. That multi-billion dollar corporation that you see initially began in a small shop, or in a garage, or in a dorm room. When the business was small, the owner(s) could run it in a particular way. As the business grew, the owner(s) had to change the way things were done. In fact, in many cases the owners either get someone else to run the bigger company, or the owners leave the company altogether. In recent history, Bill Gates is the only person that I know of who was able to successfully manage both a small startup and a huge corporation.

While it's tough to figure out how to scale a business, it's obviously possible to do so. If you're making computers in a garage, you change your procedures so that employees are making computers in a factory.

But what if the product that you're selling is...yourself?

Chris Brogan:

I built my brand on being accessible. You know me because you know that I care about you, that I care about your projects. This is true. But there’s a huge flaw in how this all works out, in the basic math level....

When Chris figured out the hours that he could/should/does spend in a day, he got 10 hours of email, 3 hours on social media networks, and maybe 2 hours on phone calls, that's 15 hours right there. And he still hasn't gotten any real work done.

Now Brogan isn't the only person who has this problem. Dale Carnegie could only win so many friends and influence so many people on his own. And there are other firms, initially started by individuals, that depend a lot on the personal touch.

The answer for these firms has been to hire people who aren't the same as the founder, but who can provide the personal touch required for the business. Chris Brogan's friend Jon Swanson refers to these people as disciples, which suggests what is required. And perhaps the end product will appear somewhat like today's Dale Carnegie Training. Let's learn about them, shall we?

Founded in 1912, Dale Carnegie Training has evolved from one man's belief in the power of self-improvement to a performance-based training company with offices worldwide....

Dale Carnegie's original body of knowledge has been constantly updated, expanded and refined through nearly a century's worth of real-life business experiences. The 160 Carnegie Managing Directors around the world use their training and consulting services with companies of all sizes in all business segments to increase knowledge and performance. The result of this collective, global experience is an expanding reservoir of business acumen that our clients rely on to drive business results.

Headquartered in Hauppauge, New York, Dale Carnegie Training is represented in all 50 of the United States and over 80 countries. More than 2700 instructors present Dale Carnegie Training programs in more than 25 languages.

And how did the company define a way to institutionalize this? Process:

As part of our ISO 9000:2001 certification and Dale Carnegie Training’s commitment to quality, we measure the effectiveness of our training. In an ongoing global survey on customer satisfaction, 99 percent of Dale Carnegie Training graduates express satisfaction with the training they receive.

The vast majority of Dale Carnegie Training local franchising organizations in the U.S have been accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET). Recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, ACCET is a voluntary group of educational organizations dedicated to promoting the highest standards of continuing education and training.

However, while this allows the company to expand, this does not allow the person Chris Brogan to expand.

The work we’re doing at [New Marketing Labs] is strong. What I’m doing with me overall is a lot more foggy.

If New Marketing Labs continues to grow, Brogan will have to change his role, perhaps taking a step back from some things that he really loves to do today. Or he may decide that he wants to continue in his present role, and go find someone else to run New Marketing Labs. Many company founders end up taking subsidiary roles at their own firms, so that they can continue to tinker or whatever it is that they do.

But whatever happens, I'm pretty sure that Brogan will figure it out.
blog comments powered by Disqus