It can be tough to scale up a service business. Clients are generally buying your expertise, and if all you have to sell is your time, the size of your business will always be limited by the number of hours in the day.
One way to step off the time-selling hamster wheel is to launch a training division to teach others what you know.
That’s what Nancy Duarte did when she found herself run ragged trying to grow Duarte Design Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based design studio.
Ms. Duarte’s specialty was creating high-impact presentations (her firm created the slides Al Gore used in the movie The Inconvenient Truth), but the work was tough to scale.
Ms. Duarte found herself spinning several plates, hoping nothing would fall to the ground. She was exhausted and no longer enjoyed her job. She loved the business but hated the strain.
In an effort to pull herself out of individual projects, she sat down and documented her methodology for an internal training course so that her employees would understand the Duarte way of creating presentations.
Once she had taught her own staff, she turned her approach and philosophy into a book, which was published in 2008 under the title Slide:ology. (Her most recent book, Resonate , was published in 2010.)
Once she had a platform with the books, she launched her training division, which offers corporate on-site workshops. Her facilitators go to large companies to teach their employees how to make better presentations.
Due in large part to the training division, Ms. Duarte has scaled up her service business and now employs 82 people.
As business owners, I think we all know that we should document our systems for others to follow, but somehow writing our owner’s manual always takes a back seat to serving the next customer or fighting the next fire.
Maybe what we need to do is to stop thinking of writing down our process as an internal chore and, instead, focus on launching a training division. That way, the job of documenting our system goes from a textbook-boring task to the raw material needed to launch a revenue-generating business division.
Special to The Globe and Mail
John Warrillow is a writer, speaker and angel investor in a number of start-up companies. He writes a blog about building a valuable – sellable – company. He is the author of Built To Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, which will be released in April.