One of the advantages that consultants have is that they see lots of businesses and know that their businesses have trends and share in similar growing pains. One of the disadvantages that a business owner may experience is that they think what they experience is unique.
About 2/3 of the businesses I deal with have 15 to 150 employees (about a third of them have 150 to 1,0000 employees). There are fairly big shifts that businesses experience at around 15-20 employees and again at around 50-70 employees and then at around 120-150 employees.
The Holy Grail is figuring out how to help those businesses through the no man’s land - the grey areas - that are these transition points. So, here is my take on that Holy Grail, on what companies and my clients need to focus on in order to grow sustainably:
1. Know Thy Self: Figure out what you do well and what you don’t. Even more importantly, figure out what you like doing (gives you energy) and what you don’t like doing (takes away energy). Focus on what your role is now and what it will become as you grow.... a hint... the larger your company grows, the less time you should spend on actually making product or providing service and the more time you should be spending on coaching and leading those who do make the product or provide the service. What will that mean for you and will you like what you will be doing?
2. Look at Your People: What do they do well? What will they need to do well at the next step in your company’s growth? Do they have the skills to take that next step? If not, can they acquire those skills (close the gap)?
3. Culture: What is it now? What will it need to be at 50 or 150 people? If it should be the same, how will you make sure that the culture/values continue?
4. Processes/Systems: Do I have any? Are they broken? If I do have processes and systems that work now, at what point won’t they work or need to be changed/adapted? What do those processes tell me about #1, 2 and 3?
5. Business Model: Am I profitable now and how much cash does my company throw off/create? Will my business model work at the next stage of growth (50 or 150 people)? Why might it not?
Over the next few weeks, I will focus on each of these five topics. What is missing from this list? What would you add or take away?