Growth is fundamental to thriving, but it can also invite discomfort. Effectively scaling a business requires that management find a way to be both steadfast and nimble. Achieving this delicate balance is no small undertaking, but it’s doable with the right foundation, plan and team.
Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Crystalize your corporate identity
Before you grow your company, refresh and crystalize the mission, vision and values that anchor your corporate identity and inform your professional culture. “Company culture needs to be maintained. It’s part of keeping brand coherence and not losing the core of the business while growing” Shares Ian Peterman, CEO and Founder of Peterman Design Firm.
During this time of transition, your management team needs a shared touchstone, a center of gravity to consult when you find yourselves asking: “Is this really us? Are we sure we want to take this part on? Is this the direction in which we want to grow?”
Refining your professional identity ensures that your management team stays on the same page during the transition and that on-brand decision-making is driving growth.
Grow as a team
If you’re sensing that the time is right for growth, something important is working. You want to retain that thriving cultural core. “Grow your people and then grow your business, helping your people to scale first” advises author, business educator and consultant Oleg Konovalov.
Prepare for the disruption that growth invites by upskilling managers to handle their additional responsibilities, then support them as they assume the additional stress. “No company can move further than its employees’ competencies, and scaling demands a lot of managers’ attention, which often causes them to neglect their people.” Konovalov points out.
Your managers help facilitate the transition organization-wide. Position them to succeed by making sure they understand their roles and have the skills to enact their duties, plus the emotional support to help their teams succeed.
The stakes are high when it comes to how your teams implement the change: “Mistakes in how people are treated are costlier than any technological or process mistake, because culture often turns negative” Konovalov shares. “The underlying cause of underperformance in a fast-growing business is cultural bankruptcy, killing a seemingly promising venture before anyone recognizes the causes of the vital problems.” Konovalov points out.
Protect your team. Make sure that your employees are not overextended. Give them the training, support and resources they need to thrive.
Define your most pressing priorities. Map each, prioritizing how vital it is to your overall plan. As you consider each area for growth, imagine where managers might be best positioned to oversee that work, thinking through how divisions might take shape as your organization grows.
Chart your plan, accounting for the complexity of your growth trajectory. Rick Cottrell, CEO of BizResults.com explains: “as the business grows and scales it will rapidly become more complex. In fact, even a business moving from 2 employees to 4 employees will become between 50% - 200% more complex.” Keep that thought central as you implement your plan-the percentage of complexity you’re adding is significant even if it only means a couple of new hires.
Luck or an adherence to an outdated paradigm is unlikely to help you harness that complexity; it requires a refined process. Cottrell explains: “With ‘people complexity’ also comes the need for more business formalization. We call it putting your ‘business in a box,’ or ‘franchising your business.’ The goal is to create optimal consistency and efficiency by identifying the company’s core processes and, then, systemizing the 20% of those core processes that will deliver an 80% success rate.”
This positions you to work the kinks out of your new organizational chart as you refine it daily. Cottrell advises: “In many growing businesses, documenting or systemizing the key processes is not a high priority, but it should be. If not done properly it will create costly inefficiencies that will prevent accelerated, and scalable growth.”
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To hire or to outsource-that’s the question
Increased staffing anchors a growth plan. Your human resources team can help guide your management team as you work through what hires you need to make. If yours is a small business, you may have operated thus far with an ad-hoc HR team.
Outsourcing your HR needs during a season of growth is a common way that businesses operationalize themselves incrementally to withstand growth. This gives you the chance to work with seasoned HR consultants which can be a nimble way to use your resources.
Do the research and find out which is in your best intertest-outsourcing HR operations or hiring an HR professional to anchor your fledgling HR team. In the same way, an array of consultants can help you strategize about exactly the kind of growth you’re after. Whether you’re targeting operational, technical or management and strategy, the right consultant at the right time can bolster your success and expedite your transition. It can be hard for managers to take a hands-off approach to a business that they’ve nurtured and invite a consultant in to do some heavy lifting, but the benefits can make it worthwhile.
Inviting the assistance of a recruiter isn’t just about getting assistance with a particular job search. It’s about earning support when it comes to your hiring priorities. A recruiter can help you define what kind of professionals you need to hire to effectively scale your business.
Working through your hiring needs and plan is critical. Cottrell explains: “Hiring the right people and putting them in the right seats is critical to maximizing a growing business’ success. Hiring mistakes in a growing business are costly and hard to recover from, regardless of size.”
If you have the bandwidth to do this yourself, consider Cottrell’s approach to systemizing the process: “Understanding what the right person looks like for a company only requires developing a position-specific benchmark that includes the required skills and competencies to be successful. That benchmark becomes the recruiting template. If an applicant doesn’t match the template, they are not the right fit for the company, if they do – great let’s bring them through the selection process.” As Cottrell points out, creating systems and templates for yourself, systemizes how you scale. This keeps you organized and focused.
Scaling your business is a risk. It means you’re doubling down on your past success and betting on your future potential. When you’re ready to take the risk, enact your due diligence at every turn. Be mindful, thoughtful and thorough. Take your time. Retain, hire and nurture the right team.
Growing can hurt, but it stands to be worth it.