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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

How to Escape from Your Jail-Cell Store

Do you feel shackled to your business? Are you the CEO–chief everything officer? Do you think to yourself, “Just one more day and soon enough, I’ll have made it”? But doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, and it comes at a high price. But that stops today. It’s time to take the steps to be an owner of a business instead of just owning your job.

No one starts a business with the goal of being trapped by it. And your quilt shop should not be any different. Your shop should be as you intended it to be: a platform for your freedom. But right now, it probably feels more like a jail cell.

You are probably thinking that you just need to be more productive. After all, the more you can do, the more gets done, and the more you profit (hopefully). And if you are just starting out, you might be right. But if you have a handful of employees and your shop has you locked down because everything depends on you, then more production will probably not be the solution or even feasible.

The long-term fix is to employ Parkinson’s Law which states that you will use all the resources you are allotted to complete a task. It’s why we run out of money and use the Profit First cash management system and why you are working like crazy day after day. You have allowed yourself the time to do it. So to fix this, you need to limit the amount of time you work.

But what about all the things that need to be done? Yes, productivity is important, but operational efficiency is what you really need. Productivity gets you in the ballpark, and operational efficiency gets you hitting home runs.

Operational efficiency is when all the gears of the business machine mesh together in harmony. It is the ultimate leverage tool because you design your company’s resources to work in concert and maximize effort. Operational efficiency is when you access the best talents of your team to do the most important work. It’s about managing resources to get the important work done instead of always rushing to do the next most urgent task.

Productivity is about doing more to increase output. Efficiency is about doing less to increase output.

“Growing a company is different from scaling a company. Most businesses grow. Very few scale. You grow a business by doing more to get more. You scale a business by doing less to get more. They are different orientations,” says Mike Michalowizc in his book Clockwork, Revised and Expanded (page 6).

Doing more has a ceiling. You can only do so much and manage so much. This is a ceiling; you are the cap. Most small businesses do not scale beyond their capabilities.


We think that scale and growth are synonyms, but they are not. You do both starting Day 1, then you hit your capacity and then you must scale to continue achieving bigger, better results.

When you start thinking about scaling and being a business owner, you change your way of thinking.

“How do I do this?” becomes “Who will do this?”

“Let’s do more things faster.” becomes “Let’s do fewer things better.”

“How do we double our efforts so we can double our output?” becomes “How do we halve our efforts to double the output?”

“Push harder” becomes “Master yourself”

“Work even harder” becomes “Work smarter”

“Hustle” becomes “Design”

“Grind” becomes “Scale”

As a business owner, your job is to scale your business. Your challenge is to think accordingly.

A few weeks ago, when going through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, we shared a story of a man cutting down a tree and the observer telling him that he should stop to sharpen the saw so it will cut more efficiently.

That applies here. Scaling a business is not about less work but about a different type of work. You must put less effort into those outcomes but more thought. And that is hard work. Thoughtful, calculated design work is the hardest and most important work of all.

“Someday” never comes until you put in the work and design it.

“Your job as a [business owner] is to set the vision and give the company a strategic direction. And to share in the profit, a thank-you for investing in a small business, for contributing to the economy, and for creating jobs. [...] “A business owner’s job is to create jobs. Your role is to produce the opportunity for people who want a good job with a good company. If you are doing the work, you are not creating jobs; you are stealing them.” (Mike Michalowizc; Clockwork, Revised and Expanded; page 14).

That does not mean you will have to wear different hats at different stages. When you are first starting out, you wear multiple hats, from sales associate to inventory manager to head of HR to director of marketing. But your goal should be to allow team members to take those hats and their associated responsibilities away from you as your resources allow.

A healthy organization never depends on one person’s effort and availability. Women’s basketball coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist Geno Auriemma said, “You have to give your key people autonomy to make decisions so they will feel ownership.”

As you build your team, you need to take a vacation. Your shop needs you to take a vacation. “[Taking a] vacation is a demonstration of your trust in your team. You are not burdening them with your absence; you are giving them responsibility.” (Mike Michalowizc; Clockwork, Revised and Expanded; page 18).

So how do you escape from your jail-cell of a business? By scaling. Over the next coming weeks, I’ll dive deeper into how to scale your shop. Today we will go over the three phases of scaling your shop and escaping from your jail-cell of a shop:

First, align. This is the foundation. You must align everyone and everything to move your shop to the next level. It all needs to move in the same direction. In this phase, you clarify who you serve, you will declare your Big Promise, and determine the most important core function of your business or the Queen Bee Role.

In the second phase, you integrate. The goal is to refocus and reorganize so that your team can do the work in the fewest necessary steps, using the least required effort, to achieve the expected outcome. You’ll discover how you and your team will protect and serve the queen bee role by tracking your time and your team’s time and developing and capturing your processes.

And finally, in the third phase, you accelerate. You take operational efficiency to a new level. Your team will become empowered and resilient, you will completely remove yourself from “doing,” and your shop will grow in impact and profitability. You’ll balance your team, find and fix bottlenecks, and finally escape from your business.

As you may have noticed, this may take some time. And every wrong step just adds more time. As Mike Michalowizc says, “Time is the only thing in the universe [...] that is not renewable” Clockwork, Revised and Expanded; page 22. And that is why escaping from your business and getting your time back is so important.

“Your primary focus is to design the flow of work through your company so that other people and other things can get the work done. Commit to putting your company’s output first and your productivity second. How do you do this? Simple: you will find better answers when you ask better questions. Stop asking, ‘How do I get more done?’ Start asking, ‘What are the most important things to get done?’ and ‘Who will get them done?’” (Mike Michalowizc; Clockwork, Revised and Expanded; page 23).

If you are just starting out, maybe you have one or two employees and have less than $500,000 in annual revenue, you need to focus on growth and process efficiency. You need more financial resources so you can scale. But, do not borrow money to get these resources. There is huge value in growing your company at the speed of earned cash that will give you a huge advantage over those that borrow.

If you have a handful of employees, are doing more than $500,000 in annual revenue, and feel like you are stuck, you feel that you are the cap on your shop’s growth, then you need to start this process. You need to take the first step and align everyone and everything.

Regardless of your stage of business. Email me at and tell me you are committed to growing and scaling your shop, to escaping from it, so that it can truly be the freedom platform you dreamed it would be.

And remember to follow me at Curtis Accounting Solutions on FB, IG, Pin, and YT.


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