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Are You the Bottleneck in Your Business — Or Is It Something Else?

Apr 18, 2023

Feeling stuck in your business? There are a million reasons why you could be having a hard time moving forward, but I’m going to be a little blunt with you today, friend. Have you ever thought that the problem could be you

Realizing you’re the bottleneck in your business doesn’t feel good, but it’s a problem I see far too often. I work with a variety of business owners and, regardless of what they offer, many struggle with being their own worst enemies. 

They’re not seeing any traction with their new offer, so they assume there’s something wrong with it, but they didn’t really have a marketing plan, to begin with. Or they aren’t seeing a lot of engagement online and think it’s because of everything but their inactivity. (Who knew… you actually have to implement that marketing plan you so painstakingly create!)  

Sometimes things do happen outside of our control and cause hiccups in your business’s progress. I’m sure you’ve experienced that for yourself a time or two. But sometimes, the real issue is…well, you. 

How do you know if you’re the bottleneck in your business, or if it’s something else? Let’s diagnose it.

Are ideas the bottleneck in your business? 

As an entrepreneur, I bet you have a lot of ideas.

But not every idea is worth the execution — even if it’s a good one. If you’ve grabbed your copy of the Shiny Object Workbook, go back and reference the goals you’ve set for yourself. Is this new idea really the thing you need to be working on right now? 

how to kick shiny object syndrome to the curb

(If you don’t have the Shiny Object Workbook yet, you can get it here.)

If this new idea or goal doesn’t fall in line with what you want to focus on, save it for later. You can always come back to it when you have the appropriate amount of time, energy, and resources to focus on it.

If you’re realizing that idea was just a midnight hyper fixation and you’re not interested anymore, it can just be deleted. You’ll have plenty of ideas later, trust me. 

NOTE: I think an entrepreneur’s gift for idea-generating can also be their downfall. When we talk about “being the roadblock” in your own business, it usually boils down to having too many ideas, not enough of a plan, and none of the resources to bring them to life. 

If you feel like you’re flitting from idea to idea and getting frustrated when nothing works… it’s time to look in the mirror! 

What if an idea is worth pursuing? 

If your new idea does align with what you want to focus on right now, is there any way you can take a step back? Can you strip down that idea to see how you can make it more manageable? What do you WANT to do, and what parts of this project make you want to drag your feet? 
Basically, you want to negotiate that project into a form that will align with your overall goals. This almost always includes making it more approachable with both your time and energy in the here and now.

Is action (or lack thereof) the bottleneck? 

If you’ve taken the steps above and your head is still spinning, you might be stuck in analysis paralysis. You worry the decision you’re making is the right one. You don’t know if choice A is going to yield better results than choice B (even if the differences are marginal). 

The remedy for this? Just get started. Seriously. Just do one thing. 

Not making a decision is making a decision, and if you know you need to move things forward, and that you are the bottleneck, not doing anything is going to keep you stuck. 

Sometimes you need to trial and error things. You can always come back to the drawing board and assess what to improve if things don’t work out. 

I recently had a client, Chalked by Mabz, who was waiting to launch a course. We talked about doing it for months and shared ideas and possibilities back and forth. Nothing happened — but one day, she admitted that she needed me to be firm in holding her accountable. 

On the spot, I had her open her Shopify, create a new product listing with the name of her course, and together we created a product description. Within 72 hours of taking that one step, she was ready to pre-sell the offer, send out emails announcing it, and had 20 signups. By the time the pre-sale period was over, she had 116 signups.

There are many reasons we stay stuck in analysis paralysis, or procrastinate on progress, but the reality is that the smallest inch forward is still an inch forward. 

Is your team the bottleneck?

If you’ve made it to this point and none of what I said hits home, the next thing I’d suggest looking at is your team structure. 

Do you feel stifled because you’ve hired a team but projects seem to take longer than you anticipated? Are you disappointed because the progress you thought you’d make by now isn’t happening?

As a leader, this can be frustrating. But there are different reasons why it’s happening. It could be that you’re a bottleneck — are you stuck in analysis paralysis? Are you moving on to the next shiny idea before your team can implement the last one? Both can affect your team’s output.

But it could also be from a lack of leadership. 

Be honest with yourself — are you really giving everyone everything they need? Are you providing clear direction and communicating expectations accordingly?

Your team may not feel like they have the autonomy or authority to make decisions without you (think about how you respond when suggestions come up or mistakes happen). Everyone needs to feel comfortable communicating with one another and sharing ideas. 

Another cause for a breakdown within the team is that you may not understand your team member’s individual strengths and weaknesses. You want to assign tasks accordingly, so things can get done faster and projects can run more smoothly. You can’t do that if you’re giving the wrong person the wrong tasks, though.

Of course, sometimes a new hire or team member just isn’t the right fit, despite efforts to make it work. This is why I recommend creating an onboarding plan from the go — so it won’t be a surprise to anyone if they’re not able to meet expectations. If you’re realizing a team member isn’t contributing in a way that moves the needle forward, it’s time to have the hard discussion and start the search for someone who will. 

Is your launch plan the bottleneck? 

Sometimes, the problem isn’t the people — it might be the product or the process you’re using to promote it. If you’ve launched an offer to less-than-stellar results or want to launch an offer and can’t seem to get to Launch Day, it’s time to do a root cause analysis. There are a few ways you can go about doing this, but the simplest method is the 5 Why’s Exercise.

Simply ask yourself “why” five times to help identify what’s really going on. Sometimes you may hit the answer sooner, and that’s okay. 

Here’s an example:

Problem: Why are there hardly any people on my course waitlist?

Why: Because nobody knew there was a waitlist to join.

Why: I talked about the course on my social media posts, but not about joining the waitlist. 

Why: I didn’t tell my social media manager there was a waitlist they could have promoted.

This exercise is great for identifying gaps in your workflow. Just make sure you don’t have tunnel vision (sometimes there’s more than one root cause). 

Like I said, there is more than one way to identify the real underlying issue. I have a few more examples you can see in this post.

Are your templates the bottleneck? 

By now, you have probably identified what’s amiss in your business that’s preventing you from moving forward. From here, you can implement changes that help you overcome those bottlenecks — and find ways to support yourself and your team. 

But this isn’t an overnight process. You won’t just wake up one day, figure out the problem, and then magically fix everything with the snap of your fingers!

Moving past any hold-up requires a strategic plan — whether that’s improving operations with SOPs, enhancing your marketing systems, or working on your onboarding and training processes. 

If you’re ready to fix the bottlenecks in your business, my operations and marketing templates can help. Get expert advice and easy-to-use and customize templates that fit your business. 

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