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Continuity Pt.2—Creating, Maintaining, and Living Your Legacy

There are no guarantees in life and even fewer in entrepreneurship.

Building a business is unbelievably daunting. Even talking about business can tire you. As I try to write this, I’ve been distracted a dozen times by those irritating pop-up thoughts. You know—the things you promised to do today but ran out of time for?

Some of those will wake me up at the proverbial witching hour of 3 AM. Some nights, I can get back to sleep, and some nights, I get up and get to work. There is no fighting that inner voice.

That, believe it or not, is a virtue.

Worrying every day isn’t continuity, but doing something about it is.

Having faith in your plan is continuity. Building an A team, making sure they know the plan, and providing them with the tools and resources to execute the plan that you’ve designed and agreed to is, you guessed it—continuity.

While cash flow awareness is critical for continuity, so too is keeping healthy. Getting up again when you fail and acknowledging your resilience is the essence of continuity. By now, I’m starting to get as sick of typing that as you are of reading it, so let’s move forward and assume you get the picture. 😉

Business Continuity as a Philosophy

The most important thing I have learned as a leader is that no matter how you begin building your business, it will take a lot longer to achieve than you want to believe. It’s why so many entrepreneurs give up before getting off the ground. As NVIDIA CEO Jason Huang said, “If I had known then what I know now, I never would have started.” 

What continuity does for you is take the nightmare out of the wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night thought. Instead of worrying about something existential, you’re worrying about disappointing someone who expected your email today.  Worries become practical, not existential—even if everything feels slightly existential at 3 a.m.

Instead of facing insomnia because you can’t meet payroll, you’re pacing while thinking about modifying a product. You’re also thinking about cash flow, which leads you to think of innovations, new equipment leases, and new horizons.

It’s not all about the next steps, but sometimes rethinking the entire journey. Resilience through Continuity gives you the grace to accept a pivot when opportunity crosses your path because you have room to pause. Getting off the treadmill for a minute requires continuity, and I promise, things get so much better when we, as entrepreneurs, accept and work towards that.

Planning Scaling and Continuity

No one loves enduring the dental chair while an efficient hygienist scrapes away mineral buildup from your teeth. But, like so much in this life, you know you just have to put up with it if you love your teeth. Dental continuity requires investment, just like your business.

Startups can be scrappy the way puppies play hard. They have oodles of energy and are happy to sleep on the spot when you want them to learn new skills. You may have high expectations but limited room in your heart to demoralize them. Every touch feels like an imprint, and it’s easy to overthink your day-to-day impact.

However, scaling businesses is an entirely different experience. It’s painful since there are stakes involved—kind of like a dental operation! Apologies to all the dental entrepreneurs out there– we appreciate you.

To scale, you first need a baseline.  You’ve created something that has traction, and it’s worth making bigger. You’re going from bespoke to (hopefully) mainstream; moving along the continuum from cottage to emergent to mid-sized.

But, things work differently at mid-sized than it did at the beginning. Looming large are the many decisions we have spoken about in our prior posts about Capital and Capacity – neither may be in ample support when you decide to scale up.

What Challenges Will I Face Before Scaling My Company?

Here are a handful of common problems that must be overcome for effective scaling.

  • Your team, which was once flat and easy to communicate with, is now distributed and divided into functional teams by geography or by management layers.
  • Your clients are in different regions, with different expectations and success definitions.
  • Your capital needs are increasing much faster than your cash inflows. In other words, the profits from your original business won’t support your growth surge.
  • Your decision-making, which was fast, streamlined and impromptu (with comfort for failure) at bespoke, now needs to be thoughtful, multi-factored, and involve collaboration from diverse teams for risk mitigation.
  • Everything needs a second set of eyes on it. And different eyes see things differently.

A business trying its level best to scale has a daunting trek ahead of it.  That walk around the neighbourhood has taken on Everest Base Camp proportions, and the energy bar supplies are running short.

The most important thing of all to consider in your scaling adventure is continuity. In fact, it is really the goal of scaling—to build something that can withstand bumps and will run with just a little less shoe polish and sealing wax required on an emergency basis.

The good news is that creating continuity at scale takes the same basic disciplines that got you past the startup stage – just a little more thoughtfulness and planning. Here are some tried and true (I’ve tried them, and they’re true 😊 ) ways to scale that will help you achieve continuity:  

  1. Focus – what are you doing, and for whom?
  2. Systems and processes – ensure you do what you do effectively (reduce errors, reduce pain.)
  3. Money management – be frugal about stuff and generous to people who form your A team.
  4. Relentless iteration requires brutal honesty on what is working and what is not—and willingness to change.
  5. Execution. Make a plan, map the plan, do the plan, evaluate the outcomes and repeat. Forever.
  6. If you’re the leader, your job is to see the horizon or know who on your team does. That is where you are going and where you need to keep the vision and aspirations focused.

Continuity is Courageous

You’ll forgive me for bringing up soccer one last time.

Christine Sinclair knew she could retire and continue her next journey because the team had achieved continuity. They survived a lack of capital, change in the team (frequently), injuries, leadership changes, disputes with the soccer association, losses, setbacks and periods of low morale. And still, they knew they were champions. They had to be if they wanted to inspire a new generation. They exceeded beyond that in inspiring people of all ages, including me!! A woman winded by a flight of stairs on more than one occasion.

Those challenges are not fun, but they are essential to growth and the creation of a better company. After all, a mature organization has resilience and continuity. It knows that the challenge it’s facing is not existential but rather just a problem to overcome. The best part is that the problem can usually be solved in multiple ways, fostering collaboration and joint vision.

Continuity in business is the state of existence where your organization gets up daily, pays its bills, meets its obligations, keeps its staff, and then maybe grows and progresses. A business with continuity is a healthy business, just as brushing your teeth leads to happy teeth. It may bore you to death, but that’s why I’m here to chat about the big picture.

Some businesses are purpose-built to last only for the tenure of a specific goal. But others, and maybe that’s yours, have the same vision as Christine Sinclair—to build a team that will last long beyond them.

That legacy is Continuity, and I look forward to discussing what that looks like for your unique business needs.

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