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How to Restart Your Business's Engine

A growing business will eventually hit a growth plateau. Here are four steps to power through the plateau and put your business on a new growth trajectory.
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Growth companies are usually run by scrappy entrepreneurs who have grown largely through the brute force of their CEO. But at some point, the company reaches a stage where the CEO is unable to sustain growth alone and yet unable to fully rely on the key people around her to create sustainable growth.

This dilemma is one of the rare situations where big companies, or at least fast-growing business units within big companies, have an advantage over entrepreneurial start-ups.  High-growth businesses within larger corporations typically have access to the necessary infrastructure, organization, and talent that allows them to power through the plateau easier. But it's still necessary to get the business to the next level to attack the challenges in front of them.

The companies that we have seen successfully bridge the plateau to capture new growth paths generally take four important steps:

1. They professionalize the organization structure.

Once a company gets above 25 or 30 people, as ours has, it's necessary to create a clear organization and reporting structure. This may seem obvious to companies who are not in growth mode, but fast-growing companies typically don't succeed this way. They've created growth by being nimble and rolling up their sleeves to take on the opportunity in front of them. Once the company becomes sizable, it requires clear roles and accountabilities to operate as a close-knit team.

2. They clarify the goals and objectives of each piece of the business.

Each branch of the organization structure, and each individual within those branches, should have clear monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. The leadership team needs to ensure that, in sum, the activities, goals, and objectives of each group will drive the results that the overall organization is aiming to achieve.

3. They focus on a small number of things where they can ensure success.

Entrepreneurial businesses are always looking for good growth opportunities. But as the business grows, leadership teams need to become more selective instead of taking on all growth opportunities that come their way. The limiting factor is not capital or resources, but rather the amount of bandwidth the leadership team has to ensure success in any one area.

4. They invest in the right talent.

Nascent companies usually hire entrepreneurial individuals who can roll up their sleeves and take on any task that is thrown at them. As the organization grows up, it often needs a different set of skills to complement the entrepreneurs. Expanding the talent base may take some extra cash and expense, which may damper profitability in the near term, but putting the right foundation in place will ensure long-term success .

Powering through a growth plateau involves simplifying and focusing the organization on the next growth trajectory. Failing to do this will create an organization that is no longer able to achieve the growth that it experienced in the past. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Send us your questions and comments at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com.

Last updated: Nov 9, 2012

KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART | Columnist | Co-founders, Avondale

Karl Stark and Bill Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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