scaling growth

Scaling Growth: Prioritize Systems Over Superstar Talent

by Mar 29, 2022Acquisitions, Entrepreneur, Growth

Appropriately scaling growth comes from hiring ordinary people into a system.

In the early days of any company, you need to solve problems by hiring the absolute best person you can who can tackle them. For example, if you’re trying to ramp up sales fast, you must go out and hire a superstar salesperson to get the job done. At this early stage in the company’s life, this person also needs to operate with just about zero framework or systems to work in. They need to be comfortable with the complete lack of structure and still get the job done.

I remember back earlier in my career when I relied on just such a person to help me get a startup off the ground. Without documentation or any support, I hired a superstar who could still go out and sell the wheels off our product and he made a lot of money.

The catch is that hiring superstars to solve problems isn’t a sustainable solution to growing your business. That’s especially true these days, as top talent becomes scarcer and more in demand by the day.

So, if you want to scale your business, it’s time to start thinking beyond hiring superstars and performing at superstar levels.

Putting Support Systems in Place

It’s a red flag any time you see a CEO complaining that they can’t find enough talented people to get the job done. Or, worse, if the CEO has hired three people and they have all failed. If you see that three people have been fired from the same job, then you know it’s not the person. Specifically, there’s a lack of systems and processes to help someone succeed inside the assignment.

At some point, you cannot rely on finding the perfect person who can perform at superstar levels without any help. It’s an unsustainable talent model–especially if you’re trying to scale the business. There is a classic book by Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited, that deals directly with this issue.

Instead, it’s time to find ways to help regular employees perform at high levels.

Consider the example of McDonald’s. They rely on hiring teenagers who, quite frankly, aren’t all that interested in the work they are doing. The average McDonald’s employee stays on the job for only three months. A 400 percent turnover rate! That turnover means the company needs to get these young people up and running and productive in just a few days to make their business model work.

To do that, the company has invested millions if not billions of dollars in processes and systems to help ensure employees are delivering a high level of service and product daily.

Building Systems to Scale

Now I’m not saying you must make the kinds of investments in systems that McDonald’s has. But there are some lessons to be learned from the company in leveraging systems to help you scale.

For instance, I was recently speaking with a CEO whose goal for his business is to scale it to 1,000 clients. But to make that happen, he needed to develop a system that would allow him to hire a salesperson who, within just three months, could generate enough sales to cover their salary and, in six months, turn a significant profit.

The CEO knew that if he could develop a system that could support a salesperson in this way, he could then replicate it–hiring more salespeople until he reached his goal of 1,000 clients.

Once you can do something once, you can repeat it repeatedly. That’s the real magic behind scaling.

Scaling Sustainably

If you find yourself staring at a scaling problem, as I’ve described, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. All businesses that have successfully scaled have had to cross this same chasm. And they, like you, learned that you can’t do it with superstar talent alone.

Over time, you’ll need to continue to evolve your systems up higher into your organization as well. If you’ve found a way to automate the support systems to help your call center talent, for instance, you need to look higher on the value chain and build systems to support your call center managers to continue to build bigger teams.

The good news is that the solution to your scaling problem is out there–and it doesn’t require you to go hunting for superstar talent.

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