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Are you the bottleneck in your business?

by Holly Mortimer of the Stratford-Perth Centre for Business

Think about it. Visualize it. Is your business stuck because you’re unable to shift or move out of the way of growth? Do you always need 100% control over every single system or process inside your business?

Let’s look at it in practice. Say you own a retail store that sells the proverbial widget and variations of widgets. Right now, you’re struggling and you’re not seeing the foot traffic come through the door you need to in order to have the ability to grow enough to pay down debt and rent. You have two part-time staff members. You manage all the social media, the newsletter, the photographing of new stock, the bookkeeping, the inventory control, the payroll, the scheduling of staff. When staff are working you work with them. When staff are working you’re always watching and listening to see if you need to jump in.

Does this feel like you? It’s certainly been me from time to time. You may be the bottleneck in your business. You may need a mindset shift more than anything else.

Working more hours, doing more things does not equal more revenue.

And yes, before you roll your eyes and say, but Holly, I can’t afford to outsource or take a break, know this.

I was you. I work this day job and run my own digital service business and write books, of which I’ve published twelve at this point and have another releasing later this year. I single parent and I have multiple pets, one of which is super dramatic if she doesn’t get two long walks a day. 

I am the child of two entrepreneurs who worked in their businesses from sun up to sun down. My grandparent was an entrepreneur who worked from sun up to after sundown.

I am genetically wired to find value in a lot of work. 

Earlier this year multiple immediate family members suffered life-threatening illnesses that required my undivided attention and I panicked. How was I going to pay my personal bills, my professional bills and walk the dog? How was I going to drop something because yes, something had to drop and in fact, multiple things did.

I was the bottleneck in my progress in being able to support my family.

Here’s what I did:

I went from 80-hour work weeks to 20-35-hour work weeks.

I had my assistant set up templated systems that I could plug into at all hours of the night while in the hospital and not able to sleep.

I hired a housekeeper twice a month.

I hired someone to maintain my lawn weekly.

I hired a dog walker.

I outsourced on a project-by-project basis of my writing business – cover, formatting, edits and more.

I stopped all live training in my digital service business which at that point was weekly.

I removed all support pieces from my service offerings.

I built educational content while in endless waiting rooms that was self-guided.

And when things settled down, I NEVER went back.

And both businesses earned more with less time and money because they were focused on only the stuff that earned money. 

And my day job now has boundaries built-in with team members who help me manage the work. Instead of doing it all, I asked for help.

Your current bottleneck doesn’t necessarily need outsourcing but what if:

1. If you have employees, you meet with them ask them their ideas for growth and let them build the plan, then execute and just see what happens.

2. You outsource an affordable bookkeeper that works in the cloud just for monthly services, or if you want, for all of it. HST, payroll and reconciliations. And then use that time to spend time with loved ones, work on projects that generate more revenue or just let out the anxiety that came with a task you hated to do.

3. You analyze the widgets currently for sale or the services you currently have on offer and see which are rarely, if ever, moving the needle and deleting them from inventory or your service offerings. Let the data guide you and set your emotions attached to that service or product aside.

4. Focus only on the things in your business that are turning a profit and amplify your efforts there. 

5. Analyze your customer base and dig into that sales data. Really create a day-to-day plan that focuses on those customers and those customers ONLY. If they’ve given you money before, they’re your warm market. You should have a system to capture their data legally and direct market to them, regardless of where they live or how they shop.

6. Think about your personal time and where you could budget to help yourself out, like housekeeping, lawncare, concierge services, dog walking, etc. Put your needs first.

7. Schedule one hour per day to do something that removes you from the business. This was a task a therapist assigned to me years ago and when I first started it, I had a stomach cramp, not a single word of exaggeration. Now it’s second nature. I chose to read or watch tv or walk and listen to an audio book. What will you choose to do?

8. Trust yourself. Your instincts are right. Stop second-guessing and just move forward.

9. If you have staff, give them more to do. Let them soar without you. They’ll often surprise you. Dive deep into their zones of genius, even your Gen Z staffers. Especially your Gen Z staff. They’ve got crazy skills in tech, socials and ideation.

Even if you can’t see a way to do any of these things, at the very least, when it feels like you’ll never grow, remember the bottleneck and question if you’re the bottleneck and find one thing you can do to slowly ease that pressure.

This is a great jumping-off point for a conversation we can have. I love to talk vision strategy with our clients! Click here to book time with me.

If you love listening to podcasts, here’s the podcast from 2020 that I used as inspiration for this post. 10/10 recommend if you love digital marketing and strategic planning.…

Set some time aside to listen to the end. There is so much you can take and use for your business model growth. 

Happy growing,


Hey! I’m Holly. I’m the Business Advisory at the Stratford Perth Centre for Business and I’m your Downtown Stratford guest blogger. I provide free consultation services to existing or new small businesses for the City of Stratford. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help, or book your own consultation, click here to get started.

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