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Growing Pains

Courtesy of Lumen Strategies
Courtesy of Lumen Strategies

Growing should be a decision, not a given (see Grow or Die, is that true?) but IF you choose to grow, there are pains and considerations.   To be sure, there’s pain associated with not growing, but we tend to expect that.  What’s often unexpected, are problems that accompany growth.  Many would argue these are problems they want, but they’re problems nonetheless.

Tim Keller wrote an article- The Process of Church Growth- aimed obviously at growth strategies and considerations for the growth of a church.  But, I find his ideas helpful in terms of business growth.

  • A large business is not simply a bigger version of a small company.  They are two different creatures. 

The leadership skills, communication methods, team building, and decision making processes required are very different.  This is why many businesses plateau in growth; they don’t recognize or incorporate the changes necessary.

  • Imposing a “size culture practice” on a business that does not have that size will wreak havoc, and eventually force the business back into the size with which those practices are compatible. (Keller, loosely paraphrased)

I notice this more with founders and leaders who cannot bring themselves to relinquish control.  This reticence is understandable.  Many small business founders poured everything they had into starting the business, working long hours, and pinching every penny. In fact, that micromanagement  was essential to survival.

Now, their business has grown, they have other people employed, and they still want to minutely manage every aspect of the business.  Two things happen:

  1. You cannot keep highly motivated and energized employees
  2. You overlook business opportunities. 

I managed a growing and very profitable service department for a company.  The founders of this successful company had founded it on a shoestring, and had worked hard to build it up.

On one occasion one of them came to me furious after discovering that we’d overlooked invoicing some overnight freight bills.  It amounted to about $100.  He insisted that I go through boxes of invoices to determine how many others we’d overlooked.

After spending about an hour doing this, with no results, I went to his office.  I asked him to reconsider whether  he actually wanted his national service manger spending time hunting down small amounts of overlooked freight bills?  Thankfully, he said “no, just please make sure we have systems in place to ensure they are being invoiced.”

His initial response is emblematic of the issue many founders have to face.   You can’t run a company with numbers of employees like you ran one with two.  The economies of scale simply don’t work for chasing pennies and overlooking large dollar opportunities.

Delegation is more than assigning jobs; you have to trust the people to whom you delegate.  And that means trusting them to make decisions.  If you think that’s easy, then you’ve never founded a small company and watched it grow.

Changes are necessary for growth.  Stacy Karacostas says she uses three rules of thumb to know when changes need to happen.

  1. I have months of data showing me I am not on track to meet my goals.
  2. I find myself complaining about the same problem three or more times.
  3. When presented with a better idea or system for my business.

Want to grow your company?  Great, have fun; just be aware of the issues.