Scale or Fail by Allison Maslan

2020, book #14: “As a leader, unless advice is explicitly requested, remain TOTALLY silent. Do not offer opinions or tell your own stories to show you relate to them.” — Allison Maslan

Finished on February 29, 2020

I’d had this book on my reading list for quite some time and when I saw that it was released, I knew I wanted to be sure to study it. Most times, I don’t care much about pre-releases or anything like that but this was an outlier. I had it on my list before it was even released and once I saw that the audiobook was available, I jumped on the opportunity. This book was great, I definitely learned a lot and enjoyed it along the way.

This is so obvious but we all overlook this at one time or another. Why is it that we think that we can make something different in the future by doing the same things over and over again? It’s ludicrous, no?

We tend to take action based on what we know and what we’ve done before as if the past can predict the future. But, we cannot get to the next level if we refuse to try anything new or different.

When I first went through this book I re-listened to this segment multiple times. This was one of the most important takeaways for me. I kept trying to think if there was one of the five that had greater importance than the others. Even now, I don’t see one of these components as being greater than another. Each of these components are interdependent and essential.

5 Central Components in Scaling a Company:

1. Strategic vision — the end goal and objective or destination that keeps you focused and moving forward.

2. Cash flow — need revenue generating operations for your business so there is consistent cash every day.

3. Alliance of the team — as the leader, you’re the visionary. Need a culture and team that supports the vision and feeds off the energy of the leader.

4. Leadership — must be the best possible version of yourself.

5. Execution — action is where everything comes to life. Mistakes, course corrections, and miscalculations are among the greatest assets in your business.

This is a tough thing to realize, I think that the acceptance of this important point is essential. It’s something that many people don’t even think about unfortunately.

Allison recognized in her first company that she was unable to concede enough authority to empower anyone in the staff to rise to the occasion and fill the gaps.

These questions were great ones that the author elaborated on when I first went through the book. Now that I’m in a different spot professionally I need to take some time in the coming days here and really assess for myself. I want to examine this deeply and understand what it is that I’m striving towards.

Big picture vision questions to ask. Answer in the present tense as if 5 years in the future is today. The author emphasizes that any analyzing will stop our creative flow, that we are not to overthink the questions and also to not edit your answers. Allow the answers to flow directly from your mind onto the page. What comes to your mind when you imagine your company’s growth 5 years into the future? Getting crystal clear on your five year vision:

What are your daily and weekly schedules like?
How are you spending your time?
What is your current revenue?
What do the operations of your company look like and how are they run?
What added products and/or services have you produced and are now monetizing?
What are you achieving with your marketing?
What does the sales department of your company consist of?
What has your branding accomplished?
What is the media saying about you and what is the company being recognized for?
What does your team say about you?
What are your clients saying about you?
You want to make sure you have a strong sense of your personal mission. What is that pain you experienced in the past that you do not want others to experience? If you can take that mission and tie it to your goal, you will always want to go big. That pain will drive you forward.

This is the big picture vision of your company, this is what you intend to create.

BIG TIME. This is something that the most successful people I’ve been around have mastered. If anyone asks a question, we better know the answer. It’s the simple things like what type of gas your car takes, if your car is manual or automatic, etc. This is what I would compare this subject to, it’s important to quickly and easily review the figures when they come up.

Know your numbers:

Cost of doing business, percentage of growth or loss over time, and net profit. Ultimately the post important number is profit. Often, the bookkeeper and accountant that you start with are not the ones you continue with because they are likely stuck in scrimp and save mode and not knowledgeable enough about things like M&A.

Love the way that this is explained and outlined here. Again, these are numbers that should be able to be communicated right away at any time. Most people don’t know how much money they need for a month of personal expenses but it’s so important. How much more then, is that information needed for business expenses and operations.

3 levels of financial goals:

1. Blue plate special number — amount of revenue you must bring in to keep the lights on and make the payroll.

2. Silver platter number — amount of revenue you need to breathe in your business. You can sleep at night without wondering how you’ll pay your bills, have enough to invest in marketing and growth, and can live a comfortable lifestyle in which you are doing what brings you joy with the people you love most.

3. Gold platter number — usually comes into play as you scale — once your products, teams, and systems are in place.

This is a fantastic practice and one that I certainly look to incorporate when I do get to the point of hiring people at a larger scale. For now, I’m bringing on an assistant in the first half of 2021 but that’s it, nothing much greater than that is on the horizon for the short term.

Once Allison has narrowed the hiring down to 5 qualified candidates or fewer, she always has her team conduct a surprise phone call. She shares that you can tell so much about someone by the way they answer the phone, handle the out of the blue moment, and demonstrate enthusiasm for the position. You must take into account that the candidate may be in the middle of something important but catching someone in real life can often reveal more than when they are prepared and ready.

Again, a practice that I absolutely want to incorporate when I do get to the point where hiring is increasing and I’ll be bringing on more people. I think that it’s essential to maintain a center and a strong foundation throughout the process of hiring. It is so easy to become biased and it is so easy to appeal to emotion in ways that are beneficial in the short term but damaging in the long term. It’s essential to hire someone who’s going to be a good fit overall and for all cases, not just for a particular project.

Allison practices the rule of 3 in hiring:

Once the candidate has passed the first couple of hurdles, apply the rule of 3:

This consists at least 3 good candidates 3 interviews in 3 locations by 3 different people.

The most important takeaway from the entire book for me right here:

“As the CEO, you are the who hiring the what — creating the big picture vision. The where — establishing the future business direction. The when — establishing the dates for big picture vision goals. The why — giving your team purpose behind the vision.” — Allison Maslan

Again, this is so essential. We need to remember our place and our purpose within that place. What are we there for? What is the other person there for? People want to confide in their leaders, they don’t just desire to learn from them — they want a relationship. That’s something that we need to remember every single day throughout our interactions.

“As a leader, unless advice is explicitly requested, remain TOTALLY silent. Do not offer opinions or tell your own stories to show you relate to them. Chances are, they’ll be rubbed the wrong way. Even when you have the best intentions, sometimes the individual just wants to vent.”
— Allison Maslan

I love this. I am big on systems and have been working on systemizing much of what I’m doing already at this stage. Further, as I go through expanding what I’m working on and truly go about developing an organization, I’m going to have to keep this front of mind. A good friend of mine worked at Google and shared that more than half his time was spent on documenting processes. This is something I see incredible importance for but where I am right now, I don’t experience.

5 steps to systemize the company:

1. Create systems for every division and operation of the company. Label using numbers and names.

2. Pick one of these areas to breakdown into 3–5 subcategories and break those subcategories down even more.

3. Make a folder for each category and maintain it in one place. Archive old materials.

4. For each project or company process write each step that needs to happen from start to finish and file that in the online folder.

5. Create a document that lists each system, folder, and the titles you’ve given them do you and your team can easily access them.

6. You may also want to make a big hard copy binder.

7. Keep. It. Updated.

Numbers 4 and 6 were the biggest here for me. We need to have the A team every single time. It’s essential that we not only hire the A team but then that we delegate and actually trust in their abilities to get the job done. As I hire people, and even before, I want to be sure to emphasize these 12 principles and truly commit to them at a deeper level. As I strive towards growth in a company in the future, I know that scaling is going to be at the forefront of all that I do. It’s not about starting a company that is small but rather, a company that is going to create a large positive impact.

Top 12 Principles Important for Scaling:

1. Don’t be afraid to fail.

2. Passionately believe in your big picture vision.

3. Always focus on sales and ways to keep cash flow going.

4. Invest and hire your A team.

5. Learn how to make decisions and stick to them.

6. Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.

7. Deal with the elephant in the room — embrace conflict and ultimately resolve it. Practice saying no and setting boundaries.

8. Create and improve the systems that drive the big picture vision. Build your business through your systems not your blood, sweat, and tears.

9. Don’t work with negative people.

10. As a leader, everything bounces off of you, if you want to grow your business 10x, you need to increase your personal development and leadership at least 12x to handle all that growth.

11. Get support, stop leaving opportunities on the table. Work with those who have walked this path before you.

12. Focus on creating abundance.

I gave this book a 4/5

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