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3 Steps to Head Off An Entrepreneur's Worst Fears

Your company's success depends on staying ahead of key growing pains.
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Lots of successful people do well because they attack every day with the core belief in their own Midas touch. That “can’t fail” mentality enables them to embrace each and every thing they do with an infectious sense of confidence. They wake up every day wondering which mountain to climb next. They are, indeed, the personification of the word "entrepreneur."

I’m not that guy. I am far more likely to wake up in the middle of the night with the fear that everything we built will fall apart. While confident enough to understand that these fears are somewhat irrational, this DNA drives me to a very different view of the world, and my business. Rather than always looking toward the next peak to summit, I am constantly looking to ensure that Launchpad remains relevant and ready for tomorrow. 

That's not all bad: I believe that this mentality has served us very well. The only real constant in a growing business is that what was right yesterday won’t be tomorrow, and over the past five years my partners and I have been in a constant state of re-imagining the agency. Each time we address one growing pain another emerges, hidden in the weeds of daily operations. Staying ahead of growth-driven issues as they arise has enabled Launchpad to always deliver for our clients. Here are three of those issues. 

Recognize the Ceiling.

First and foremost, it’s critical to recognize the signs that things may be bursting at the seams. These are often subtle and hard to see. We have hit points where delivering great work to our clients had become painful, requiring an investment in greater process and back-end resources that we hadn’t needed in the past. In another instance my co-founder and I found that we needed to re-think our own roles at the agency. In each case the solutions were predicated on seeing the challenges and evaluating the root cause rather than just getting frustrated with the people who were operating with a model that was no longer right for the agency.

Act Twice Your Size.

It is very hard to grow effectively unless you invest and build for the future.  Since starting Launchpad we always set an objective to operationalize the agency at twice its size.  Whether investing in people, capabilities, process or capital, the goal from the beginning to grow the agency and we needed to be ready to handle growth when it came. Our always moving "twice our size" goal is a way of ensuring Launchpad is prepared and operating efficiently while balancing the desire to avoid overburdening ourselves with investments and bureaucracy that is not necessary at whatever point we are at that moment.

Make the Hard Decisions.

As we’ve grown we have always worked to raise the bar on the overall quality of the creative delivered to clients. This has been driven by our own passion to beat our best work, which of course should be the cornerstone of any business. Another major driver has been the growth of our relationships with our existing clients and the types of prospects we target.  Their bar is higher, and our goal is to deliver for them well beyond even those higher expectations. Constantly raising the bar may be the toughest part of managing growth because it requires tough choices. As the agency has evolved we’ve resigned clients that were not a good fit where we were heading, made painful decisions on personnel, and invested to bring in resources without any additional compensation to support projects we felt were critical to our clients and our future. While extremely hard to make, in all cases these decisions have been important for the health and growth of the agency and have led to increased long-term revenue.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 29, 2014

SCOTT ELSER | Columnist

Scott is the co-founder and president of Launchpad Advertising, one of the fastest growing advertising agencies in the U.S. and 3-time member of the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies. Scott is a marketing consultant, entrepreneur, business coach, speaker, and contributing writer for Inc. magazine. Connect with him on Twitter @scottlpa

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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