Being the bottleneck in your agency can feel frustrating to say the least. It can cause deadline issues with client work, force you to have to do even more work because things are running behind and hold up your team from being able to do the jobs that you’ve paid them to do.
However, it’s important to know that being the bottleneck in your business is not a bad thing. It’s actually something to be expected as you continue to grow. Being the bottleneck is simply an indicator that something needs to shift. And the faster you and your team are at recognizing when it’s happening and creating a strategy to shift, the faster your company will grow.
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Hey Everyone, Nicole here and welcome back to the show. So let us talk about being the bottleneck in your business because this is likely to happen throughout the course of your business as it grows and continues to evolve. And as you scale it, you will find that you will likely continue to be the bottleneck in different ways.
And being the bottleneck is actually a good thing. A lot of times we look at it as like a negative thing or something that we should get rid of. And it’s not that we wanna continue to be the bottleneck if we’re recognizing that it’s happening, but it does mean that you’ve gotten to a point where things need to be readjusted, likely because you are growing and evolving. And so let’s take a minute and celebrate you being the bottleneck.
So sometimes when you’re the bottleneck, it will be very obvious to you. You will know that you are holding things up that. You need to make some changes. And other times it might not be so obvious. It might appear more as that things are going wrong in the business or that you feel like the business has to have you involved or that you have to stay on top of things or else something’s going to go wrong.
And it’s those times where sometimes we don’t realize that there’s things in our business that need to be adjusted, so that they don’t rely as much on us as a business owner. And as you grow and you bring on a management team, you will find the same thing is going to happen with your management team as well.
So the question that I recommend you constantly ask yourself, and you can even bring this up with your team as well, when you notice that things are piling up on your plate and everyone’s waiting for you is: “how do we change this process so I’m not holding it up? What needs to happen?”
And so you can start brainstorming this yourself, but you can also have your team members weigh in and share with you their perspective. I’ve done this many times and a lot of times team members have better ideas than I do because they understand their own capabilities, they understand the systems and processes and tools that we use in a better way than I do.
So let’s talk about examining: where is everyone waiting on me? Where am I holding up the process? Where am I holding up our growth?
Here are some common areas: one can be in creation, so this can happen a lot of times in marketing. It can also happen when you are creating new business ideas. It can happen when you’re creating new processes.
If you do this as the business owner, if you’re kind of that strategic brain, it could be in the actual creation process and maybe you don’t have anyone else on your team that really leads that effort.
The second place I see people being hung up, especially agency owners are in reviews. So reviewing and approving team members work for their clients.
Another area is in decision making. When things and challenges come up in the business having to go to the business owner to make those decisions and choices can be a spot where things really get tied up. And if it takes them time to do this and this time is being spent by the business owner, it’s also preventing them from doing other things in the business as well.
So let’s talk about some options of what you can do.
So the first is that you could delegate some of these areas to someone else. If you have someone else on your team, if you hire someone in, depending on what that role is, they may be able to take over some of these things for you so that you actually don’t have to do it anymore.
Another idea is to either create or update a process. If right now you are a part of the process in order to deliver client work or in order to let’s say launch a marketing campaign inside of your business, you can change up the process a bit so that it can be more efficient.
What goes hand in hand with this is also how can we make it easier for you to be involved? Is there something that your team can do or that you could remove from the process or add to the process so that it’s not going to take up as much of your time to be able to do what it is that you need to do that maybe there’s no one else on your team that can do it right now.
And then sometimes you can remove the task completely. And so let’s talk through an example of this. Let’s say you are tied up right now reviewing your team’s work. If you have a team member that submits work to you that you really never have any edits on, or maybe those edits are really small and you realize just don’t really matter. It’s more just you wanting to go in and change a few things because it makes you feel better, it doesn’t really impact your client at all, you could remove yourself. You could remove that task off of your plate for that particular team member with the clients that they’re currently managing.
Now, let’s say you have new clients come in, it might be helpful for you to go back in for those new clients just to make sure that there’s not a learning curve or there’s nothing that you do need to advise on. But then if the same thing happens, you can remove that task off of your plate for that team member.
Let’s say you have a team member that submits work and certain areas always just need updates. This could be a combination of mentoring that team member, but also maybe even updating a process. So I talk about creating level one and level two processes.
So level one processes are: sign into the system, click this button, submit this thing over here. Very step-by-step. If you’re onboarding a new client, it’s sending a welcome email, sending the contract, setting them up in our systems, very step-by-step that really anyone could come in and follow.
Level two processes are more around strategy and decision making, so really teaching somebody what’s important when it comes to your company’s standards and guidelines so that person can make creative decisions, can make executive decisions inside of your business.
And so maybe if you have a team member that submits work and there’s certain areas that always need updating, maybe you need to provide them with more of a guideline around what needs to be included in the work that they’re submitting and why it’s important, and even examples of something done well and examples of things that aren’t done well so that they can really understand and see the differences.
Another thing too, is going back to the first example, if you have a team member that always submits work that you never have any edits on, you could remove that task, but then you can also think what is it about that team member? What is it that they are doing that’s allowing me to not feel like I have any edits on it, and using that to also create those level two processes.
The next example I wanna share is: how can we make it easier for you to be involved if you feel like you are still the only person who can be involved?
So maybe it’s that you make all of your approvals on Thursdays between this time and this time. Maybe you have team members or a team member prepare everything for you to review either in one folder or in a particular document. That way it makes it easier for you to review. So as you’re going through some of the reviews now, You can think about like, how could this be easier for me?
Even if it’s as simple as not having, you have to log into three different systems, or not having you just having to click into three different folders. Maybe there could be a calendar invite that you or your team member sends to you that has a link to the exact spot where you do all of the reviews.
How can we make this as easy as possible for you so that your brilliance is really being spent on your brilliance, which is the approval and not trying to log into a bunch of different systems or having to edit things in a million different documents.
If you are meeting with team members one-on-one, could you send them videos instead?
If there is, a particular issue that you’re seeing across the board, is there a way for you to record a video and share it with your entire team to let them know that there’s one update and then letting them update that document as opposed to you going in and updating all of their work individually.
Another idea if you were stuck in reviews is to promote another member of the team to do the reviews. So maybe you have a team member that’s a little bit more advanced that has shown that they give great feedback and mentor really well. You could obviously also hire someone in to do this, but oftentimes people have someone on their team too. That could be a really good hybrid role until they reach capacity and eventually need to either stay in client work or become a more senior level at your company. Okay.
So the thing to know about the thing to know about being a bottleneck is that it’s not a bad thing, it’s just an indicator that something needs to change. And so during this episode, I wanted to share with you lots of different options to really get those creative juices flowing so that you can think outside the box a little bit, get feedback from your team and even if you’re part of a community you can run this past them as well to see what are some other solutions that I’m not thinking about? And how could we really change this process up so that it’s not relying on me anymore.
I always like to say that in order for you to be able to grow, you have to do less. And sometimes that can feel really hard, especially if with something like reviews and approvals because that directly impacts the quality that you’re, delivering for your clients, and of course, and none of us wanna sacrifice that.
But at the same time, really asking yourself the question, how do we maintain the quality and not have me as involved? And really start to challenge yourself because oftentimes when you are so in it, you think it’s the only way that you can do something. And this is really about challenging you to come up with another solution that isn’t yourself. Because in order for you to grow, this is a practice that you have to keep doing over and over and over again.
So I’ve worked with clients who have grown million dollar agencies, and the first bottleneck that they experienced was with their doing one-on-one work with their clients and being involved in client work.
And so then they would streamline their process, but then they found that they were in 20 different Slack accounts. And at this point they had hired in team members to help support them. So that next step was to start removing the business owner from the Slack accounts and have the team members be in the Slack accounts.
And so that was the first shift and adjustment. So it was like, okay, this, she’s the bottleneck inside of client work. Let’s figure out how do we slowly transition this so that it doesn’t impact the client, and the team still feels supported.
And then the next phase of it was really starting to remove her as the bottleneck inside of the internal operations of her team.
And at first she was part of every discussion with her team because her team was quite small, and then eventually she had a manager. And so there were certain meetings that she just didn’t really need to be a part of anymore. So it was really determining how can I remove myself from meetings, while still giving everyone what they need, how do we come up with that solution?
And then eventually it was removing her from some internal Slack channels inside of her own business. And then as she grew and she brought in more managers, those managers started facing similar challenges and through some management, mentorship, which I do inside of my program AGENCY, we talked about removing the managers from some of the conversations that the team was having and really being able to streamline that process.
So you can see that really being the bottleneck is an opportunity for you to learn a new skill that you will use time and time again inside of your business.
It’s not about removing yourself once, it’s about really learning the process and implementing the practice over and over again so that when this starts happening, as you grow your business and with your internal team, you know exactly what to do. And you can always come back to this episode and listen in, and you can also send this episode to team members as well.
All right, everyone, that’s what I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed this, and I would love for you to share with me, in any form, whether that be on Instagram dm @nicolejacksonmiller, or you can even email me firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know:
What are you thinking about removing yourself from? Where are you the bottleneck right now? And what are some things that you learned from this episode and some things that you were thinking about to help you continue to remove yourself as a bottleneck so that your team and your clients and your business can really flourish and that your focusing in on the right things as a CEO.
All right. I will see you next week.