Growing a business is not just doing the same thing you were before, only with more people or more money. As you add employees and pursue opportunities, your company will experience destabilization. It will feel chaotic. The difference between companies that make it and those that don’t isn’t talent, products, or services – it’s the ability to stabilize and move forward.
The big question is, “How”?
Audit Your People. Who do you have on board? What are their capabilities? Do they have the ability to do the job for which you originally hired them – and do they have the capacity to change as the demands of the company grow more complex? After the dust of starting a business settles a little, it’s time to take stock of your people and determine if those who brought you this far will bring you further.
Make the Tough Decisions. And if they can’t, you’re going to have to have some hard conversations. Often, business owners hire their family and friends; that, or their first employees now feel like family and friends. They are hired to work in a specific environment, and that environment is changing rapidly.
Those valued people may not be the best fit anymore. Make this determination, and make the call. If you’d rather keep them and slam the brakes on growth, that’s a valid choice. But make sure it’s a conscious one.
Implement Processes. You can grow without processes in place, but can you grow beyond that? Not sustainably. So why are you so hesitant to implement a structure? Because, and this is something I hear again and again, “That’s big company stuff.” You think? If you want to one day become a big company, you have to start thinking – and acting – like one. Stage 1 and 2 companies with plans to continue growing absolutely must put a framework in place.
Nothing has to be cast in stone, but you need to have some kind of organization. Everyone in sales, for instance, needs to know they report to Joe. Everyone in operations needs to know they report to Sally. Everyone needs to know that this is how we work in this department, and how we work with other departments.
If the word “process” scares you, just make a bullet point list and call it a “framework.” But you need something – processes, operating procedures, guidelines – or people are going to run around like chickens with their heads cut off.
Maintain Your Culture. Here’s another one: “We want to keep our family culture.” Yeah? Great. You can maintain a family, value-oriented culture in a 10-person company, a 100-person company, or a 1000-person company. Just because you have more employees doesn’t mean you can’t keep your culture. In fact, it’s that much more important as you grow.
Talk about culture all you want, but if you haven’t integrated it into everything you do, that’s all it is. Talk. You can implement processes and procedures and maintain your identity – but you have to work at it. You can’t slack off.
Hire for the Future. Once you audit your people and their capabilities, determine if, with a little coaching, training, or mentoring, they could move into other roles. Owners can get stuck here: “I hired this person for this role, and that’s all they’ll be able to do.” Maybe that’s the case, but it’s short-sighted. People are multifaceted; they’re 3D. If an employee doesn’t want to transition, that’s one thing. If they’re told they can’t, that’s another.
When hiring, don’t take a short-term view, don’t even limit yourself to thinking about filling a specific role. Consider the employee’s long-term potential, how they can contribute today, and how they will add value tomorrow.
If you want to stay small, fine. But if you want to grow and move your company to the next level, you’re going to have to think bigger. These steps can help you build a foundation that can stabilize your company and sustain growth.