4. WEAK MARKETING PRACTICES
Marketing is another facet of the business that entrepreneurs frequently let slide, said Harnish. Among solution providers, that's often due to the entrepreneur's technical background. Becoming bogged down in day-to-day administrative chores at the expense of market-facing activities is a frequent pitfall.
Once a solution provider surpasses the $2 million threshold, managers should carve out time for weekly meetings to discuss big-picture marketing questions, such as whether the company has the right product and services for its market, if it's charging too much or too little for the product or services, whether it has the right distribution strategy, and if it's doing enough promotion, Harnish said.
At IPM, top managers regularly hold off-site meetings to assess where the company is and, more importantly, talk about "what do we do right, what do we do wrong, and what do we want to be when we grow up," Bari said.
Solution providers on a growth trajectory also can benefit from observing their customers. "It's amazing how much you learn about running your own business by watching your customers grow," Papadopoulos said. "You grow as your customers grow."
5. LOSING FOCUS
With talented managers and consistent business processes in place, a CEO should be focusing on the company's business model, its talent environment, and core processes such as product development and creating customer value, 10X CEO Helow said.
And yet he finds many CEOs spending as much as 70 percent to 80 percent of their time on things that don't really matter. CEOs at growing companies should ask themselves if they were forced to reduce their work hours by half, how much effectiveness would they really lose?
At Novantis, Papadopoulos said he has no problem filling 40 to 60 hours every week with work. "It's incredibly easy to get caught up in 'things that need to get done,' " he said. He's developed the practice of thinking -- often on the drive home -- about how he spent those hours and whether they sync up with his list of core tasks. If they don't match, "then it's time to hire and delegate."
"It's separating what's important from what's urgent," said Sobel. How to tell the difference? "It just takes the conscious choice to learn. It's a lot of self-awareness that has to be built and learning from mistakes," he said.
Helow suggests that entrepreneurs who feel their company may not be living up to its growth potential should ask themselves three questions: What did I do this month that improved my business model? What did I do that improved my core processes? And what did I do to improve my talent environment?
And he has a warning for those who follow his advice: "When you start asking yourself these questions for the first time, the answers are going to be painful."
PUBLISHED APRIL 3, 2013