Going against the Grain

The assertion that making money is killing your business sounds preposterous. But that is what internationally acclaimed business writer, Chuck Blakeman,  claims in his bestseller, Is making money killing your business. During a lecture sponsored by the Economic Projects Transformational Facility (EPTF), Blakeman explained to a large gathering of business people what his daring book is all about.


Blakeman has an off the grid approach to business that has been adopted by thousands of business founders and leaders. He has bootstrapped eight wildly different businesses from the ground up, making every mistake possible along the way to some big wins. It is this experience and businesses insights honed through experimentation and instincts that makes his lectures a must attend and the participant’s mind frame is forever transformed.
EPTF on the other hand is an organization that seeks to empower entrepreneurs so that they can in turn empower communities. They do so by approaching empowerment in two-fold strategies; training and provision of business development support services. Established by The Navigators-Kenya, EPTF came about as a response to the harsh socio-economic realities of the 1990’s. The organization is fully committed to fostering economic growth by empowering small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through trainings, mentoring, business clubs and resource centers. One of the key groups that EPTF strives to transform is the youth and they have created resource centers with the aim of engaging young people through training and business support.

According to Blakeman, the intention of business owners should not be to make money rather their focus should be on making businesses that makes them money even when they are on vacation. This is only possible when entrepreneurs choose to overlook the tyranny of the urgent and embrace the priority of the important, two doctrines that are well articulated in his book. These means that owners should focus on establishing structures and implementing strategies rather than reacting continuously to the day to day challenges of running a business. When business owners understand that making money is not core towards business growth, they start focusing on strategy and structure so that the owner divorces himself from production and instead becomes a leader. 

There are various stages of starting and running a business and the actual number varies depending on which school of thought one ascribes to. “Business owners must understand the stages of running a business so as to make decisions that will help them create businesses that make money for them even when they are on vacation,” explains Blakeman, adding that businesses don’t fail but it is the owners who get tired of being on the treadmill.
The Blakeman model consists of seven stages which begin at conception and start up of a business all the way to significance through succession. At the beginning, the entrepreneur conceives an idea and establishes the business using any available resources and adopts a system that is easy and cost friendly. At this point the owner is euphoric and adopts the mind frame of a salesman. At stage two, the business is surviving and the euphoria has decapitated leaving behind lingering doubts with questions like ”didn’t think it would be this tough” cropping up. The owner has to sacrifice his lifestyle since most of his time and money are consumed by the young business.

At stage three, the business is breaking even and it’s able to cater for itself and the owner can breathe easier. This is followed by the stability stage where the business is making sufficient money and the owner has adequate profits to establish a great lifestyle. “The owner starts to feel like he is in a treadmill at this stage and he can either choose to remain here or make conscious decisions to grow,” explains Blakeman.  Those who chose to go on reach a stage called success where the business is doing well and management is in place to help the owner run his business. This leads to stage six which is significance where the owner is independently wealthy and strong management is in place to run the business on behalf of the owner. The last stage is succession, where the owner passes the leadership mantle to another and leaves the new management to run the business independent from him.

So how can business owners get off the treadmill and accelerate the transition of their businesses from survival to success all the way to significance? Process mapping has been billed as the most effective way to achieve faster growth as the owner articulates his ideal way of getting things done so that others can have a reference point as they do their work. This allows the leader to pass on his skills and insights while freeing him to concentrate on offering vision to the company and pursuing and implementing strategy.

Secondly, a business must create a strategic plan which would guide it on a path of success. Blakeman advocates for small strategic, two pages being ideal so long as they capture both long term and short term operational ideals. In addition, he calls for business owners to consider employees as stakeholders and treat them as thus allowing them to have a large say in what direction the company takes. Only through prudent strategies, effective process mapping, employee engagement and innovative thinking can business leaders achieve significant business and personal success.

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