I recently heard about yet another local business that seemed to be doing really well a few years ago but recently shut its doors.

It wasn’t the economy. It wasn’t incompetence in their craft.

The service they offered is still in demand.  In fact, they were riding a big wave created by other big fish.

They didn’t have to invent a market.

What Happened?

Balloon popping growing too fast in businessUltimately, the owner could not figure out how to successfully grow or scale their business.

Burn out.

Or the realization they could make similar money by themselves with much less hassle.

This is the artisan trap.

As Les McKeown (Predictable Success) says, it is a bad idea to cycle between being the visionary and the person delivering the product or service (operator). This is why companies with more than one founder are generally more successful.

When you are busy working in the business you are not working on the business.

Cycling between too many roles gets none of them done as effectively as required.

And the separated visionary and operators roles are essential to growing a business (just as the processor role is essential to scaling it).

I don’t judge these business owners.

I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve done this. In fact, just like most other small business owners, I am still doing it more than I want to. You probably are too.

The Expert Business

When you are working in a business that relies on the amazing or unique talents of its founders; you have inherently built a business that is hard to grow or scale.

But isn’t that why you got into business? So you could apply your skills?

The problem is no one else can do it as well as you can.

So you have to stay involved in everything.

You end up with a model that can only grow to a certain extent; limited by your abilities, personality and sheer willpower.

This is why many expert businesses intentionally stay small. So they can work their craft. Stay in their sweet spot.

To Grow

To grow you have to either find other people who can do what you can do as well as you can. (This is actually pretty hard.)


You find a way to teach others to do what you can do.

Even better, simplify and systematize what you do so it is even easier to teach.

You can grow that.

But it is still limited to the influence and abilities of the owner(s).

If you can develop leaders who can develop other leaders you can scale.

Scaling can become self-propelling.

And if you are not really ready for scaling… it is like popping popcorn with no lid on the pot.

Pop. Pop. Boom.

Pop Goes Your Business

If you try to grow the business further than the owner(s) has personally grown it will either pop (implode) or shrink back down to its natural state.

Which result occurs depends on a number of factors including:

  • Cash flow and capital,
  • How over-extended you get,
  • Remaining customers and how bad you messed up the relationship, and
  • The maturity and ability of the owners to see the mistake and fix it.

And some luck.

(This happened to us too.)

Next Steps for Us

Continue to simplify and systematize. Using Manifast to help us stay on track.

Teach, mentor and coach.

Get help. Help others do this.

Grow then scale.

What are you doing to get your business to grow without popping? Leave a comment.