I often see businesses struggling with rapid growth. It’s a ‘champagne problem’, but a serious one.
How can growth be a problem? For many businesses growth occurs so quickly that various systems or processes give way as they are not capable of dealing with increased number of users or transactions. These processes burst at the seams, staff get frustrated and customers are let down.
A loyal and hardworking team got you to this point. Staff were highly engaged with a ‘make it happen’ attitude. However, as the business grows, putting out spot-fires on a daily basis and coming in on Saturdays to catch-up with the extra workload doesn’t seem like so much fun, and certainly not a sustainable approach. Without robust systems and processes, something’s gotta give. Many businesses plug the gaps with short-term fixes in order to stay afloat, but it won’t get you where you want to go.
“You got to this point with blood sweat and possibly tears;
now it’s time to work more systematically to improve business processes”
The symptoms of poor business processes are many and varied:
Overtime: Only a small number of individuals understand how the business works. The work keeps piling up and it seems that there’s only one logical solution – get the team to work an extra few hours. This may get you out of trouble in the short-term, but it is definitely not a sustainable solution.
Cash-flow: As the business grows your expenses increase more quickly than your revenue. You are keeping higher-stocks of most items as you don’t want to disappoint customers, but cash is tied-up and bills are overdue.
Problem solving: The teams operate in crisis mode. Every issue is urgent and everyone seems to get involved in solving problems. There are plenty of ‘band-aid solutions’ keeping things together and everyday feels like groundhog day.
Low morale: The employees feel that this is not the company they once enjoyed working for. Most are stressed juggling too many activities and may not have had the opportunity to build new skills. Capable employees start to leave in frustration.
While growth was always the goal, now it feels like this business is built on very shaky ground.
A system for growth
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to approach things in a systematic way. Here’s some simple things you could do to ensure that your business is growth ready.
What’s the Score? Do they know? Imagine watching your favourite sports team play a critical game without a scoreboard? The same is true when it comes to business performance. Ask your employees if the business is winning or losing. Let your team know whether the business is winning or losing. Share metrics and performance indicators that make sense to each team on a regular basis. They will be more engaged, and more aligned with the needs of your customers.
Improve constraint points: There’s no point improving just any problem that you can find. You want to improve the business performance. As such, you need to work on the most constrained part of your business, and put all your efforts into improving this point first. Where are the most number of files piling up? Who is working the most overtime and why? Which products are in back order and why? Ask similar questions and you will find the right constraints to work on.
Problem solving: Problem solving needs to be done in a structured way. There are many problem solving tools that can be utilised. It is not the tool but developing capability within teams to use these effectively that makes the difference. The most important points to remember when solving problems are i) knowing which ones to solve and which to let go and ii) identifying root causes. Prioritised problems are best solved in small teams.
Grow the team: Your team needs new skills and capabilities. These could be technical skills or soft skills such as leading a team. Do the key individuals in your business know how to lead their teams? Can they have a coaching conversation with their direct reports? Are you having coaching conversations with your direct reports to talk about ‘how’ they are performing and not ‘what’ results they are achieving? Developing your team’s soft skills will underpin everything else. This is an area that is often overlooked but essential.
Rapid growth can be both exciting, and tricky to navigate. You got to this point with blood sweat and possibly tears; now it’s time to work more systematically to improve business processes. As you do, you will free up valuable resources to solve other problems or grow the business further, entering a perpetual and virtuous cycle of growth and efficiency.
So if you’re ready to harness the full potential of your organisation, contact me at [email protected] and let’s start a conversation.