The Talent Gap

A client and friend of mine who has been in business almost 20 years has been enthusiastically telling me about his 3 year strategy to grow his company from $4M to $20M.  Upon reaching his $20M goal, his intention is to sell the company and pursue other adventures.  He has been working his “3 year strategy” for the past 8 years and he is no closer to his $20 goal now, than he was when he started!  Each year he has experienced “some” growth and was profitable most of the time, but at this rate by the time he achieves his objective, he will be well past his prime and possibly too old to enjoy the fruits of his hard work, let alone, begin some new adventures!

So last year as he was telling me about his same old 3 year objective, I decided to have a “bold” conversation with him and confronted him with the fact that his 3 year strategy had morphed into a mediocre intention that was going nowhere fast.  Truthfully, at this pace it could take him another 20 to 30 years to achieve his $20M goal and asked him when he would commit to doing  what it would take to actually achieve his vision.

I then suggested that he stop dreaming about all the positive aspects of achieving his goal and instead go home and ponder the thought of what it would be like in 3 more years when he wakes up to the fact that he is still not any closer to his $20M objective.  I asked him to think about the hard labor he has endured over the past 23 years and to contemplate continuing this daily grind for another decade or more with no promise of achieving his timely vision.

I got a call from him the next day. He said he had spent the whole night thinking about our conversation and had made a decision.  He was ready to take the necessary steps to achieving real progress and realize his vision.

So I told him that the first course of action was to FIRE HIMSELF!  He had been telling me for years that he was not a good manager of people and didn’t really enjoy it or the operational aspects of running a business.  He is a brilliant technologist, extremely creative, great with customer solutions and that is where his expertise, passion, time and energy should be focused to best achieve HIS objectives!

Like most entrepreneurs who have been in business for more than 5 years, he had developed products and services that others desired and were willing to pay for.  The problem is that will only take you so far in building a company.  It requires a lot of talented people to develop and execute a strategy to truly grow an organization.  Entrepreneurs frequently “talk” about these concepts yet are lacking in the true knowledge and action plan to transform their ideas into reality.  In other words, they can “talk the talk” but can’t “walk the walk”.

That being said, I worked with him to clearly define the role of a COO that could execute his 3 year retirement vision. We then found someone with the experience of exponentially growing entrepreneurial companies. We hired that person in December, gave him the authority and independence to do what he knows how to do and 9 months into the job, he has the company on track to achieve $10M this year and is positioning the company for $15M next year.

Many entrepreneurs face this same dilemma – if your one of them – perhaps it’s time to have that tough talk with yourself and start a new journey towards achieving your objectives in a timely manner!

(About the author: Mike Matalone is the founder and CEO of Excelsior, a Talent Management Firm. With more than two decades experience as a successful entrepreneur and human capital management consultant, Mike has authored dozens of articles on the importance of having the right people in the right jobs as a fundamental driver of business growth and profitability. An award-winning speaker, Mike has delivered more than 200 workshops and presentations to business groups throughout the US, Canada and the U.K. Prior to the founding of Excelsior, Mike spent five years as an executive coach and facilitator for TEC/Vistage International, the world’s largest CEO membership organization, and was the founder and CEO of three companies. Mike is currently a Vistage member.