Big goals inspire two emotions: excitement about possibilities and fear of added complexity. However, you can transform complexity into a new level of simplicity that brings greater results.
For the past few years, I’ve been asking entrepreneurs to imagine a ten times bigger future - a future in which you take whatever’s most important to you and multiply it by a factor of ten. Does that thought make you uneasy?
My experience is that, if it does, it’s because instead of simply magnifying what might be great, you’re also imagining ten times more of the complexity you’re dealing with at present. This fear can keep even the most successful entrepreneurs from accomplishing, or even entertaining the thought of really big goals that they’re otherwise perfectly capable of achieving.
Complexity is a natural, constant by-product of success. Every time you grow, all the “stuff” and messes in your business tend to grow too. More opportunities, clients, projects, and employees can easily add to the load an entrepreneur carries.
The secret to growing without getting overwhelmed by all this complexity is to continually cultivate your ability to simplify as you go. Once you're able to uncouple growing results from growing complexity, it becomes easier to adopt and act with a "multiplier mindset", where thoughts of making things ten times bigger, better, faster, easier, cheaper, and more enjoyable become the norm.
Transforming complexity into a new, simpler way of doing things that’s consistent with exponentially greater results and enjoyment is a skill, and the entrepreneurs who grow the most and retain a great quality of life in the process are masters at it.
Real Business readers can download a free digital book on developing the “Multiplier Mindset” that makes it possible to go ten times: “How to get to the top and stay there.”
At the heart of this ability is self knowledge: What do you do best that continually energises and motivates you, and also creates the greatest value in your business? How much simpler would your life be if you could focus just on doing this and getting better at it, doing it for more and more appreciative and lucrative audiences and having others on your team handle everything else that keeps the business going and growing?
Entrepreneurs can learn how to stay in this zone that we call “Unique Ability” and surround themselves with alert, responsible, curious, and resourceful team members to support that ability and handle all other aspects of the business. Then, even if their organisations become bigger or more complex, their own experience is one of greater simplicity and enjoyment. Often, growth and simplification happen through paring down to fewer, bigger clients or customers or a smaller but more profitable niche where it’s possible to offer a more innovative line of products or services.
Regardless of what it looks like, this doesn’t happen on its own. It requires a conscious effort and some supportive habits and tools. This is where the skill comes in. In our experience with over 15,000 entrepreneurs, during the first three years of streamlining and focusing, getting more and more clear on what their Unique Ability® is and building a team to support that, entrepreneurs tend to double their turnover at minimum. After building this foundation—with larger resources, more time to think, and greater clarity about what to focus on—they are able to grow exponentially year over year.
One of my coaching clients, Andrew Dodds, has trained his team members to such a level of capability that any of them can step in for anyone else—including him. He says, “What’s most impressive about this is the improvement in my quality of life. In 1998, I worried every month about making payroll. Now, I’m working half the time with ten times the pay, and the only stress I have is a creative stress—redesigning the company and reinventing ourselves for the next ten times.”
Think big, get clear
Paradoxically, identifying a big goal like “10x” as part of this process can actually help you learn to simplify more quickly. It will show you how you need to pare down, what capabilities you need to add to support you, and help you do it with much greater clarity and confidence.
See how this works for yourself: Take any positive thing in your life you’d like to multiply and imagine it ten times bigger. Now, with that in mind, measure backward to where you are now and ask:
What is the most productive, enjoyable activity or skill I need to focus on and develop to reach that level?
What additional support would I need to have around me to make this happen?
What tasks and relationships would I have to stop being involved in and what new relationships do I need to cultivate?
What has to have changed or improved in my organisation for us to reach that point?
In the face of a really big goal, it becomes clearer what supports that level of growth and what doesn’t. And as you get better at articulating a vision of the big goal you’re heading toward, you’ll make it easier for the people around you—your team members and your clientele—to get excited and motivated to help you get there faster.
Another one of my clients, David Reiling, owns and operates a community development bank in the U.S. that has grown its assets from $80m (about £50m) to $800m (about £500m) while focusing in on a segment of the market that other banks weren’t interested in: low-income and immigrant workers. “The more good we do,” he says, “the more profit seems to come our way.” And he fully expects to multiply his business like this again: “The second ten times is going to be easier than the first because it’s intentional and conscious. And it’s hard to say you can’t do something when you’ve already done it once.”
The transformation of complexity is a constant process. The most successful entrepreneurs I work with are always encountering new levels of it with each new stage of success. The difference is that they have the confidence of knowing they’re capable of transforming it into greater and greater levels of simplicity—and that every time they’ve done this, life has always been better on the other side of that barrier.
If you learn to transform complexity into simplicity, you’ll disarm one of the biggest obstacles to entrepreneurial growth. And instead of overwhelming fear, what you’ll feel in the face of a new opportunity will be motivation and excitement—which let you imagine, and achieve, bigger goals.
Dan Sullivan has over 38 years’ experience as a highly regarded speaker and coach to entrepreneurs, and is the founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc.
Real Business readers can download a free digital book on developing the “Multiplier Mindset” that makes it possible to go 10x: “How To Get To The Top And Stay There.”