As leaders in small business and non-profit organizations, we often find ourselves asking questions about how to grow our product or service offerings, market share, client or donor bases, etc.. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s critical to the long term health of your organization to be working on what you do and not just in what you do. But, one of the most important questions you can ask is “Can my small business or non-profit really handle growth?” Most business owners and directors believe growth is a good thing. There are hundreds of “techniques, tips and tricks” out there to fuel our desire for knowledge on growing. What I’d like to help you focus on in this article are 4 problems with growth you should ensure are structurally fixed before getting to the growing part of your business.
Problem: Process. It’s defined as a set or series of intentional actions designed and taken to achieve a specific outcome. Sounds pretty straightforward but, in the growth cycle of many, if not most, organizations, written processes and procedures are often rudimentary at best and, most often, non-existent. “We do that like this,” says the passionate entrepreneur, and then proceeds to show their new employee how it’s done. Not having written processes and procedures have some inherent problems. First, it opens up lots of opportunity for conflict which arises from the difference in what your expectations are or how you showed them to do it and what your employee’s expectations are or how they understood how to do it. Second, without written processes, you’re the only standard for whether it’s being done right. This can create quality control issues and a lack of confidence for your employees. Third, if you’re the only one who can demonstrate success, then your processes are not scalable.
Questions: Are my processes documented. Can they be successfully followed by anyone in the organization or someone brand new? When followed closely, do the produce the desired outcome? Unless your employees have clear guidelines and processes, you cannot effectively handle growth.
Problem: People. Everyone in your organization has a change quotient, or capacity for change. Some people, like entrepreneurs and innovators, have incredibly an incredibly high change quotient; almost an appetite for change. Others, and often these people make great production employees, have very low capacities for change. Growing your business may change the content, structure, environment and responsibilities of those in your organization that you have come to count on for consistent success. As an effective director or owner, you need to ensure that you have the right people for growth. Some employees are invaluable in the process side of the business but not so much in the progress side.
Questions: What are each of my employees change quotients? Which employees can lead change in my organization? Which employees, if any, cannot adjust rapidly enough in my growing organization? Be sure to have an understanding of each employee’s change quotient and take the time to find and train employees for growth.
Problem: Scalability. Many organizations cannot produce the levels of high quality, consistent and valuable services or products at a higher volume. Imagine that you are going to make a cake. You get the best of ingredients, follow the instructions to the letter, watch the oven like a hawk, decorate it beautifully and it’s such a hit that a bidding war breaks out with excited customers. What would happen if you had to produce 10 of those amazing cakes in about the same time as it took you to produce the first one? Can you turn out similar quality? Can you get enough quality ingredients? Will those you hire to help you decorate produce cakes that are nearly identical? In order to grow and maintain the market you’re building for your services and products, you must ensure that your business systems are capable of growing with you so that you do not suffer on the quality of service side of the equation. Erosion in this area will wipe away any profit gains you realized from the economies of scale that growth can bring.
Questions: Do I have the business systems in place that will ensure consistent quality at 2x, 3x or beyond my current levels of service or production? Do I have access to the right people that will ensure consistent quality?
Problem: Priorities.When your organization grows due to good planning, consistent quality and flawless execution, there will be parts of your business operation that grow right along with your success. This often means that some parts of the business that you used to do in a few hours a week now take dozens of hours to complete. Your processes may be clear, your people properly trained and your operation as efficient as it can be, but the growth of the business simply means more time. One ingredient the never grows as your business does is time. Unfortunately, you will only get 24 hours tomorrow, no matter what you have to finish to meet the new demand. You may need to consider outsourcing some parts of your organization that have grown beyond your capacity but which cannot yet support a full-time, highly qualified employee that can perform at a level that you did when you first started. Often you will find companies that can produce what you need far faster and with higher quality than you can because it’s all they do. You need to be honest about the areas of your organization that are mission critical that only you can do. These are the areas that would be off limits to outsourcing but on which outsourcing other operational areas will help you focus your much needed attention and expertise. This doesn’t mean that this part of your business, like sales, human resources, bookkeeping, marketing, delivery, etc., won’t come back in house with future growth. Outsourcing may be temporary and which operational piece gets “farmed out” may change during your growth cycle.
Questions: What operational components of my organization will grow beyond the capacity we have with growth? How will I find partners that will do these processes for me? When will it make sense to outsource? When will it make sense to pull those services back in house?
With solid systems and a written plan for the questions above, your organization will be more ready for growth and better equipped to handle expansion without the fear of collapsing under it’s weight. If you’d like some help in exploring how to prepare for growth for your organization or small business, we’d love to help. Just click below and our team will reach out to start the process rolling and get you on your way to growing in a way that you can handle.