I have a few long-term clients who I love dearly but who are painfully difficult to work with!

The problem is that they are creative entrepreneurs, brilliant at starting businesses – and launching new initiatives within existing ones – but challenged when it comes to building sustainable and scalable machines.

Because our expertise is the inverse of theirs you’d think we’d work together fabulously well.  But, more often than not, we don’t!

It’s not that we don’t appreciate the synergy. We do.

It’s not that we don’t both want the same outcomes. We do.

And it’s definitely not a personality thing – over the last 10 years a few of these individuals have become close personal friends of mine.

The issue (I’m starting to realize after reading Predictable Success) is that businesses must undergo a series of metamorphoses as they grow. Now, the thing is that these metamorphoses are tadpole-to-frog changes (material, not superficial).

And these changes require that entrepreneurs and their management teams have an exhaustive understanding of the life-cycle of an organization – as well as a tolerance for the collateral damage that inevitably accompanies each of these transformations.

In our case, at least, this exhaustive understanding has been lacking. Fortunately, however, it’s the subject of this new book.

Les McKeown’s Predictable Success presents a model for the lifecycle of the organization.

The left-hand side of the model represents the rise of the organization and, the right, its decline. At the apex of the arc is a place called Predictable Success. It’s here that the organization is operating at its best. It’s efficient, profitable and scalable.

Les argues that it’s impossible for an organization to get to Predictable Success without first undergoing three critical transitions (Early Struggle, Fun and White-water). And he maintains that, unless management is vigilant, the organization will slip out of Predictable Success and visit Treadmill, The Big Rutt, and Death Rattle on the way to its eventual demise.

Of course, the critical question is, what exactly determines an organization’s journey along this arc?

The answer brings me back to our entrepreneurial clients. Les’s thesis is that the journey is determined by the interplay of two critical factors (in conjunction with the overall environment):

  1. Entrepreneurship
  2. Systems

Les argues that an organization needs a blend of each – but that the ideal blend is quite different at each of the stages in his model.

And for me, this is the critical take-away.

Obviously, an organization needs both entrepreneurship and systems. But this realization is insufficient. It lures us into imagining that there’s a perfect blend – a kind of golden ratio that management must engineer-into the organization.

But Les paints a picture of a more dynamic reality. Management must fine-tune the blend as it moves from one stage to the next. And, even when the organization is in Predictable Success, management must pay careful attention to the warning signs that indicate the organization is slipping back into White-water or – heaven-forbid – toppling into Treadmill (a scary place, where the seeds of the organization’s eventual destruction germinate without anyone noticing).

How to learn more

If you’d like to learn more about Predictable Success, you can:

  1. Purchase Les McKeown’s book
  2. Download a free 27-page extract
  3. Listen to an interview with Les on the Independent Entrepreneur

Les McKeown interviews yours truly

While it probably should have been me interviewing Les, the tables were turned recently when Les interviewed me for his blog.

It’s a very nice interview so, after you’ve ordered yourself a copy of Predictable Success, you might like to take a listen. If nothing else, you’ll be surprised to learn what exactly I did when I graduated high school!

The interview is here.