Keeping your company viable by taking a multi-dimensional approach to growing it.
Where do you start when your company is planning for growth? Do you look for sales people? Do you start a massive marketing campaign? Do you start a hiring frenzy to get people on board as quickly as possible? Do you plan a huge product launch?
Growth at your company can be as disruptive as a changing technology that renders your products nearly obsolete; while it seems as though growth is a good thing, unplanned and unmanaged, it could be the death knoll before your company’s implosion.
It is always interesting how when a really good movie comes out and becomes a blockbuster film, then the movie producers come up with a follow-up or similar film that ends up being terrible, more of the same, or going just too far. While it may have been a good idea, on some level, a poorly planned sequel could do more harm then good. People won’t watch it or buy it, producers might be less likely to invest in the next film and it will be more difficult to book good talent for the next film.
This is no different for your company; while your product or service might be good, increasing the amount of business you are doing thinking that it is just a matter of doing more can lead to more harm then good. As a smaller firm with a limited reach, it was rather easy to juggle the work. However, juggling is scalable only to a certain point. Then it becomes more of a nightmare than anything else. Like juggling chainsaws.
Planning for growth cannot be on a single dimension, either. Just focusing on sales or marketing or product development or R&D or whatever your flavor might be could result in terrible consequences. Here is the scenario: you suddenly have more work and more customers than you can handle, your offering becomes substandard because you are focused on filling the demand and you cannot fulfill the commitments you’ve made to the new clients. Those clients report to their audience that your product is terrible and suddenly, you are struggling to maintain the clients you had before your company’s terrible debacle.
Worse yet, you might have to give people refunds for work that you have already done or paid someone else to do. Which means that you may be digging into your pockets because the money is already spent. With enough of that going on, your company could quickly bankrupt. And while bankruptcy seems like protection…it is expensive.
When your company grows, it will probably grow on all levels and in all directions. The increased number of clients means that you have to have to produce or deliver more. This means that you have to look at what it takes to get your products to market. This includes management, quality control, customer relations, support, etc.
Many if not most small business owners are directly involved in product development and delivery. While it may be hard to fathom, growth might mean that you have to give up some portion of what you are doing in order to oversee the entire company.
How do you do that? Process engineering.
When you build processes that outline all of the steps involved in delivering your product or service, you can evaluate each step for a) necessity, b) cost and c) opportunity to delegate. There may be situations when you suddenly find that the way you were operating isn’t profitable. Or, perhaps, there are many steps that anyone could do or that by changing your process, you could get more done or developed faster.
This is often where consultants come into your company and identify ways to cut costs.
In any case, your process will also help you identify how much you can produce and deliver in what timeframe, help you identify any bottlenecks, or areas that will slow down that process and at what growth points you will need to increase the resources required to produce and delivery your product or service, such as machinery, the level of access to information, the amount of space, number of staff members, management, etc..
Keep in mind that with great investment, comes great risk. You must consider and evaluate at all times.
While I would not be one to suggest avoiding growing your company altogether, I would be the first to say that you must take a strategic approach to doing so. Growing without planning for and managing that growth hurt your company, your brand and your reputation as a business leader.
I would love your thoughts or feedback, or perhaps your experiences with growing your company or other company’s you have encountered. Please leave a comment bellow or in our LinkedIn Group, “Better Managed Business: A Forum for Business Owners.”
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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