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We’ve all seen this – the business starts and gets a great salesperson aboard that really knows how to work the phones and get the business in. But is this the right person as the business keeps growing?

Initially, of course, the new business is about making sales at almost any price, building a customer base and keeping the cash flowing.

As the business grows, change is needed. More sales (and other) people join, processes are put in place – things like sales areas, quotas and measurement of profitability – formal hierarchies are established, and the culture of the company starts to solidify. They’re all the hallmarks of an established business. They’re necessary. It’s no longer a focus on the top line, but on the bottom line.

But this makes things increasingly difficult. The original salesperson, who may have shared a desk with the owner in those very early days, is finding the new environment difficult. They might still be the top performer (they had the pick of the early customers, after all), but now they are reporting through a sales manager (or director) to the owner. They rankle at the idea of defined customers and areas, of quotas and of profitability requirements that can kill potential sales. They’re still as loyal as ever to the owner, but don’t feel this loyalty is returned, and it causes resentment.

They joined a free-wheeling company, worked hard, played hard and saw some great results, but the business is different now and their discomfort shows. They skip meetings, ignore instructions, cut special deals to get each sale, and continue on their own path – just as they did when they were the sole star performer. And this resistance to change starts to impact the rest of the company.

The business is now at the crucial point of having to put the right resources in place at all levels if it’s to scale successfully. And this is hard. The business can’t afford this bruised apple affecting the rest of the barrel – it has to be taken out of the barrel quickly, before others are affected. It’s time to make that painful cut and let this top performer go on to another new business where they’ll feel more at home.

And, of course, it’s not just the top salesperson who can be in the wrong place now – although the nature of this sort of high-performing independent free spirit does make them more likely – but other early employees, too. Here’s an interesting story by well-known entrepreneur Steve Blank on his early experience on the wrong side of this phase.

Rest assured that you’re not alone in this quandary. It’s a normal part of growing a business, and there will be more hurdles in the future as your business continues to grow. Just be sure to be open and honest with your people about the road ahead, and why changes are necessary as the business grows. After all, you might well want them back again when you launch another business in the future.


#BusinessFitness #CEO #Entrepreneur #Growth #Leadership #Loyalty #Management #People #Sales #SmallBusiness #Teams 


Some of my other short posts around growth and leadership that might be of interest:

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