Most business owners realize, as Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is in overalls and looks like work.” He goes on to say, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
What is not said, but might be implied, is that it often takes more energy, more resources to get a product or project to the point of success – beyond the inertia of complacency. While he seems to referring to work in general and the idea that it takes more to simply get over the top (being close to success and giving up,) what it boils down to is that to you have to put more energy into being successful.
Continuing in that line of thinking, you could assume that in growing anything – overcoming not growing or being at rest – requires more energy. Physicist Sir Isaac Newton offers in the first law of inertia that an object at rest, unless acted on by an external force, tends to stay at rest.
I have a nine year old son that provides a good example of resource requirements: my wife and I could always tell when he was going through a “growth spurt” because he would suddenly begin to eat twice as much as he normally would. He would get home from school and instead of eating a piece of fruit, he is looking for a sandwich or several pieces. At dinner, he might be leaning toward his third helping of the meal. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, he is complaining about growing pains, is really tired and his pants are too short.
Similarly, you could look at a car, especially if you have one of those full size SUV’s: You’ve probably noticed vehicles have to gas mileage ratings” One for city miles and one for highway miles. These numbers could be 5-10 miles per gallon different. They suggest that a car driving in a city will get fewer miles per gallon than one driving on a highway. Why? Because every time you have to get the vehicle moving – increasing speed (growth!) – you have to use more gas or resources in order to do so. Once you get to the ideal speed, you let up on the pedal (stop increasing). On the highway, on the other hand, you won’t increase speeds as often, so you will use less gas because you are only maintaining.
For a business, the period of growth – and more so for rapid growth – requires a similar increase in resources – people, money, time, facilities, machinery, etc. – to make sure that the business can continue to deliver its products and services effectively while ensuring that the business operations continue. A business that is just maintaining, however, will not require the additional investments.
Ethan Mayer, CEO and founder of Sythenai Consulting and I spoke about this a couple of weeks ago about the state of small businesses and the challenges they face in growth. He has a wonderful presentation on the topic that is certainly worth looking into. We shared thinking on some of the resource challenges and outcomes you might face during a growth phase:
- More work than you and your team can handle, potentially causing quality issues, product delivery delays and customer dissatisfaction and eventually loss of customers.
- The need to Hire and train new employees while the business is operating at warp speed, pulling you and/or others away from their core responsibilities – reducing productivity in the process
- Requirement of more money to purchase supplies, inventory and employees and/or contractors – then potentially more space
- Scrambling to develop processes that haven’t been created or that are just outlined may leave gaping holes in running the business
- Requirement for a different management style. Often the role of the leadership/management must change, perhaps from being the producer or the sales arm to actually managing growth.
The result of failure in any of these areas will result in damage to your brand. Brand=Trust.
Think about it; when you go to a restaurant for lunch – when you have a limited amount of time, and the restaurant takes forever to get your food out, are you likely to continue going to the restaurant? Probably not. What if parking was difficult? What if seating was on folding chairs because they ran out of space? What if service was slow?
While the product itself might be fantastic, all of the other factors contribute to whether on not you will continue to go to the business. You might have some tolerance, as many people do, for some error, but not when it becomes the norm and not after the substandard production gets to a certain point.
Like the restaurant, in order to continue in your business, you have to ask how you will restore the confidence your customers have lost in your company? Can you?
This, unfortunately, can result in the demise of many companies; they haven’t properly planned for and navigated through growth spaces and, as a result, lost many existing and potential customers. After losing the customers, they simply don’t have the deep pockets to regain them or get “replacement” customers.
Remember the adage, “It costs more to get new customers than keep the ones that you have?” That said, if you are planning to build an extraordinary company, in order to ensure or at least reduce the likelihood of making a GRFP (Growth Related Faux Pas,) at what point do you plan for that growth? What resources can you tap into to help you through the changes that your company will experience? How do you ensure that your company is truly scalable in order to meet the new demand?
This is why it is so important to plan for growth before you end up going down that path. You will need to understand the various scenarios and how you will respond to them when they occur. It is like training for a fire drill; if you wait until a fire happens to determine what to do, a lot of people will get hurt if a fire actually occurs.
Obviously, you aren’t likely to be able to predict everything that will happen, but planning for it will certainly put you in a better position to deal with many of the unknowns. Process engineering, process automation through IT, backup production alternatives, planned outages/shortages, etc., can all assist with being preparation.
Like you would with your taxes, sometimes it is simply better to hire a professional.
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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