Spearheading a rapidly-growing business has its challenges but don't resist the urge to evolve as the business grows.
Steering a rapidly growing and evolving business is one of the most exciting endeavors an entrepreneur can undertake. If your business is growing, it definitely means you’re doing things right and your market hypothesis is proving accurate. You’re also creating new jobs, breaking new ground and, hopefully, making more money.
While all this can be exciting, shepherding a company through times of rapid growth presents plenty of daily challenges that must be quickly overcome.
By its very nature, growth brings about significant change. The systems, processes, procedures, staffing, financing and other factors that helped your company grow to 10 employees won’t work when you have 50. And what worked for a 50-employee company won’t work when it grows to 100 employees. Nearly all aspects of your business must evolve or be reinvented along the way, from restructuring your leadership team to training your staff to accommodate significant change.
While managing Slingshot SEO’s growth during the past several years, I’ve learned these changes don’t tend to occur in broad sweeping actions. Rather, the evolution of a business that enables rapid growth—at various stages—happens through thousands of daily decisions. And those decisions need to be governed by the goals and principles core to your business, all of which should be memorialized in your company’s strategic plan.
Key components of a strategic plan typically include a company SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities and Threats), a mission statement, a value proposition, operating principals, and one- to five-year goals and initiatives. Operating without a strong strategic plan or full business plan makes dealing with growth all the more difficult, and leaves a company far more exposed to the risk of going down the wrong path. A well-written plan will keep you focused on what matters as you are bombarded with the daily challenges brought on by rapid growth.
While most parts of the business change to some extent during periods of growth, experience has shown that the largest changes occur with human resources. People’s jobs and skill sets must grow to match the needs of a larger and more complex organization. To stay ahead of this takes great recruitment and training practices where you strive to hire and train people today with skill sets that will be needed one to three years down the road. With the right staffing, emerging challenges related to growth can be handed down to capable managers, leaving fewer burdens resting on the entrepreneur’s shoulders.
Other challenges are often related to policies, procedures and incentives. Specifically, compensation plans and Key Performance Indicators may often change year to year. Because of this, it’s smart to write employment contracts that cover no more than a one-year period. The expectation should be set among the staff that their jobs, responsibilities, and compensation structures will be evolving as the company evolves.
During the last five years of growth at Slingshot SEO, we’ve changed nearly all aspects of the business, from our pricing and delivery model to our CEO. These changes took place gradually as growth presented us with new challenges that required slight tweaks to our business model. The accumulation of these minor tweaks added up to major shifts that have reshaped our entire business.
As you’re dealing with the day-to-day challenges of growth at your own business, stay nimble with one eye on the present and one on the future.
KEVIN BAILEY is co-founder and president of Indianapolis-based Slingshot SEO, a national leader in online marketing, planning and execution. An Indiana University graduate, Kevin has more than fifteen years of Internet marketing experience. @SlingshotSEO