4 Signs Your Business Has Hit a Ceiling

The Entrepreneurial Operating System® attracts leaders of organizations at many different phases of business development. In my experience, relatively few leaders—whether they’re Visionaries, Integrators, or a midlevel manager looking for effective management tools—seek out EOS® when everything is going well. Most of the time, they’re looking for help because their business has hit a ceiling.

Visionaries are often the people who look to the EOS business model for answers. If you’re one of them, you might recognize some of the signs that I’m about to describe.

Like a bump on the head, every day

A hunger for growth is at the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit. When a business isn’t growing, it will struggle to remain competitive.

A loss of growth momentum is often a sign that a business hit the ceiling a while ago, but its leadership didn’t recognize the signs. I once met an owner of a small consulting firm (we’ll call her Samantha) who told me that running her business was starting to feel like walking in quicksand. She took some comfort from knowing that the issues she was facing aren’t unusual. In fact, they are all a normal part of growth. These are the signs she described:

  • Less-than-satisfied customers.

Every business wants their customers to come back or their clients to stick around. When customers begin to drift away or lose enthusiasm, that’s a sure sign that something is wrong.

“We’re not meeting our service goals,” Samantha said. She had plenty of ideas about why they weren’t succeeding: too much reliance on a few talented employees, lack of process, customers that weren’t a good fit for what they do.

The service ceiling can be scary. Carefully cultivated relationships feel like they’re going sideways and the company’s revenue foundations are starting to slip. EOS provides the framework for a team to compartmentalize and then tackle each of the issues that drive down customer confidence.

  • Unhappy employees.

In companies with cultures that don’t encourage open and honest dialogue, employees often keep their complaints to themselves. With the labor market so tight, an unhappy employee may be more likely to leave for another opportunity than to try to fix a bad situation.

One of Samantha’s employees had recently quit, and she was worried that it wouldn’t end there. She said, “As much as I want to blame it on burnout, I think the problem is that the work has stopped being fun.”

EOS doesn’t offer a magic wand to make employees love what they do, but it offers tools for fostering constructive conversations. It also gives the leadership team a system for objectively studying its team. For example, the People Analyzer™ helps the leadership team know when someone is in the wrong seat, which is good both for the company and for the person suffering in the wrong job.

  • Bottlenecks at the top.

A common trait of Visionaries who have hit a ceiling is the sensation of having too many balls to juggle at once. Sometimes all that juggling is a necessity: the business is growing faster than the team and the Visionary doesn’t have the right people in place. But as Gino Wickman writes in Traction, many Visionaries cling to their juggling act long after they need to. That’s when they need to let go of the vine.

That was the case with Samantha, though she didn’t quite know it. “I need to be involved with the small stuff to keep things on track,” she said. Having grown her business from a one-woman operation, she was used to handling all the details. But her insistence on staying in control was holding back her success.

  • Big ideas, small execution.

One of Samantha’s big frustrations was her sense that her team kept coming up with plans that never went anywhere. “We talk about new directions we could explore, but when it comes to pursuing any of them, we fall flat,” she said. She blamed the team’s workload for the problem: they didn’t have time to turn their big ideas into action.

Businesses that have hit their ceiling are stuck in a Catch-22. They need to embrace new ways of doing things to overcome their big hurdles, but they don’t have the bandwidth to do it. EOS addresses this problem by encouraging teams to rigorously organize their planning. Rocks allow employees to prioritize one or two big tasks per quarter, rather than chasing every dream that comes along.

Is it time to call an EOS implementer?

Samantha ended up hiring a great EOS implementer who has helped her team overcome the ceiling that was driving her crazy. I’ve seen it work for dozens of companies. Has your business hit a ceiling? Let’s talk about it!

Send me an email or give me a call at (818) 649-1103 to schedule a time to chat.