Businesses, like marriages start with the most optimistic of projections. All entrepreneurs hope to make it big, overcome obstacles and scale new heights day in and day out. Alas, it is almost always never that simple. Bottleneck in business is inevitable at some stage or the other and is usually responsible for the abysmal success rate amongst startups. Even established businesses that “make it” face bottlenecks during their lifecycle and if not managed, they have the potential to stunt growth, maybe even destroy the company itself.
At the face of it, bottleneck in business seems predictable. Of course we will face challenges, we tell ourselves. And yet when said challenges do arrive, we find ourselves hopelessly out of our depths.
Optimism bias, as it’s known in scientific circles refers to how the human brain is simply wired to hunt for the most favorable outcome of any situation. And, while hoping for the best is always a good thing, it can also play against us by making things rosier than they actually are, thereby downplaying the threat that actually exists.
So, if you have been throwing caution to the wind lately, then here are 5 potential bottlenecks in business that you should really look out for and how to prepare against them:
- 1. Financial Mismanagement
- 2. Inefficient Time Management
- 3. Too Many Processes
- 4. Defunct Network
- 5. Growing Too Fast
1. Financial Mismanagement
Running out of cash is something startups and established brands alike fear. What do we do if we dry out our budget before breaking even? This question is enough to keep any entrepreneur up at night. They have every reason to. An analysis of startups revealed that of the companies that failed within a year of starting, 29% tanked because of lack of cash.
Fortunately, the number of ways you can keep your credit line alive have exploded today. Banks and venture capitalist firms are the usual go-to’s for cash flow, however, you can also look into crowd-funding and angel investors as well. Crowd-funding is not only a great way to let your own target audience finance you, but get valuable information on what they want, whether your product has a market at all. Similarly, the number of angel investors has exploded thanks to the internet and reaching out to (trustworthy) people online can help you create additional cash reserves.
As your company expands, you will need to have all that money handy to automate marketing, invest in sales enablement and develop more advanced products or better services. Most companies wish to move from capital expenditure to operational expenditure as it allows them to use a company’s income to fuel its growth. CapEx in itself is often looked upon as a bottleneck in business.
However, few actually manage to pull it off. The cloud is helping more companies to move to OpEx as it allows them to work on a pay-as-you-go model. Almost every manner of productivity initiative such as data storage, development, team collaboration, communication and project management can today be carried out in the cloud.
Yes, we hear you. Finance can get very dull. But cost management isn’t the boredom bogeyman it is often made out to be.
2. Inefficient Time Management
Ever had the feeling that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day? What about that nauseating need to put off what needs to be done right now? Poor time management happens to us all and it’s a very persisting bottleneck in business.
The problem with the usual interpretation of time management is that people try and cram in as much work into as little time as possible. After all, that is the definition of “efficiency,” right? A better question here would be why did I overestimate the tasks that got left behind? If we could make an honest appraisal of the situation, then we could allocate the required time, in which case time-management would cease to be an issue.
Aside from properly understanding how much time we need, companies also endlessly struggle with tracking it. All too often, we get so lost in the thick of things that we end up losing all concept of time. The cloud can again come to your rescue here if you have found yourself zoning out. Runrun.it for instance is built from the ground up as time and task tracking tool that can help teams stay focussed on the task at hand, while keeping tabs on all that needs to be done.
Part of good time management is setting up best practices and sticking to them. Here are a few pointers on how to create a workflow.
3. Too Many Processes
At the face of it, your processes are to help you achieve higher productivity and for the most part they do. But, they can also get in your way if not managed properly. It is true that the sudden explosion of cloud computing has enabled companies to seek out and try a range of different solutions for their problems. It is not uncommon to see brands utilizing 2-3 different productivity apps if just for trying them out.
As a company grows, so do its systems. But overemphasis on process and system can lead to micro-management where employees are literally dictated every little aspect of their job, leaving little to their own imagination or initiative. For instance, a study of European and US companies found that the number of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordinating bodies and decision approvals needed have grown by 50%-350%. Managers are also spending 40% of their time writing reports 30%-60% of their time in coordination meetings, leaving nothing to actual productivity.
Obviously such a state of affairs can lead to loss of morale and productivity. Instead, companies are better of focussing on people rather than the structures. Process can become a bottleneck in business by installing robotic ways to do things that stifle creativity. While processes and procedures are great for repetitive tasks, letting teams establish their own rules works better for aiding creativity.
There’s a right way to create a process and a wrong way. Here’s how to create a process that will actually work for you.
4. Defunct Network
Your network is your net worth goes a popular business saying. A good network allows you to satisfy your organization’s requirements by getting better deals, opening new opportunities, finding better talent and getting insider information on the market as well as competitors.
But, creating a good network is easier said than done. Simply exchanging cards at a tradeshow, making friends at parties and adding more people on LinkedIn doesn’t amount to networking. Your network should consist of people who can actually add value to your business. For want of reciprocity, you should also be able to help them when they need you.
You can start by mapping your existing network. Make a list of the people you know, what they do and what potential benefits they can offer your business. Next, highlight the people you think offer the most value. Remember though, you may not be able to ascertain all your needs just yet so, don’t just remove everyone who doesn’t seem immediately noteworthy.
5. Growing Too Fast
Growth being a bottleneck in business seems counterintuitive alright. But excessive growth can stunt your company, too. Managers can be tempted to scale too fast in order to overtake competitors or get the company profitable quickly. However, in doing so they can expose their brand to numerous risks.
You need to consider some important questions before deciding to scale up. For instance, is your cash flow able to keep up with your growth initiative? Is your company’s foundation being compromised in the name of growth? Are your existing customers happy while you are focussing on getting new ones?
For instance, Groupon had hit it big with their concept of group buying of coupons. So successful were they that a hotline was setup to help out Groupon addicts. In a bid to capitalize on their success while they still can, Groupon began to aggressively expand, only to see their share prices plummet. The company had started to overlook their existing customers in their bid to secure new ones and in doing so, ended up losing both.
A little bit of forethought can go a long way toward helping your company expand at a healthy pace. Read more on how to create a strategic road map to grow your business.
Concluding Thoughts about Bottleneck in Business
Sooner or later, every company experiences a bottleneck in business. The important thing is to never panic when they do happen. A great way to avoid them, however, is by creating strong processes and transparency throughout your organization.
Using cloud based tools such as Runrun.it can help you track tasks and identify issues well before they become glaring problems. Interested in learning more? Why not give Runrun.it a test ride? It’s free and will help you gain a better understanding of how cloud based productivity solutions can help teams work faster, better and more transparently regardless of wherever they may be.