Rapid growth within your organization is both a blessing and a curse. A suddenly expanding business means your organization is providing an essential service that the market lacked. You and your team are creating value by filling a hole in the market. Your organization's growth leads to increased revenue, profits, shareholder value, and brand recognition -- all great things.
However, this can also be a dangerous time. There tends to be a lack of future planning for the company as you become consumed by the day-to-day growth and excitement. Without envisioning and planning for the future, you risk another company coming in and doing what you do, only better, and quickly losing relevance.
Where are you on the S-curve?
You will never know what the future holds, and the best-laid plans often go awry. However, you know that the future is on the horizon -- and you are especially confident about yours because your organization is growing and thriving. In this period of growth lies the best opportunity for planning that you will ever have.
In my book The PRIMES: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem, I talk about the idea of S-curves and how they apply to every product, business, and system. Think of your business in terms of a series of S-curves. The lower dip on the first S-curve represents the significant resources and energy you invested and depleted to stimulate your company's growth. This is the "start-up phase." If you're a leader who is now dealing with rapid growth, congratulations! You made it through.
The growth you're experiencing now is illustrated by the inclined part of the curve. You're doing the right thing and all of your indicators support that. The market is positively responding to your product. You're making money. You're probably hiring some new staff. It's an exciting time for your business.
The challenge becomes that, as you come closer to the top of the curve, you need to start preparing your business for the next innovation. This is a challenge because your trailing indicators are still positive -- your customers are happy, and your business is doing well. Why change?
Decide when to make the jump.
If you want your business to continue to grow, it's important to recognize that what brought you your current success isn't going to take you to the next level. You'll need to start thinking about where you want to take your company and what that will take. It's critical to prepare for the jump at this point because you have the resources and momentum to invest in what's next.
Is there a new product or service offering you want to introduce? A new customer base you want to reach? Do you want to expand into new or different markets? Any of these things will take significant investment, from product development to hiring to marketing, etc. You need to start planning for your jump to the next S-curve while you have the money and energy to invest in it.
Because if you don't take action while your company is on the upswing, you'll reach the peak of your current S-curve, and then you'll begin the decline. You'll start hearing negative feedback from the marketplace. Your customers will begin telling you that what you're doing isn't working for them anymore. Think about what happened to Toys "R" Us. Other retailers started doing what they did -- selling toys -- only better. They began losing money and then couldn't make the jump to their next S-curve.
The longer you wait to make the jump, the less time you have to carefully plan and invest in your future. And you may begin to run low on resources and need to pull in outside investors to make the jump. The only way to avoid falling off your peak after a period of growth is to prepare to jump to the next S-curve before it happens.
Take action now.
While it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of your company's current growth, take a minute to survey your team. Where does everyone think the company is on your current S-curve? Do they feel the approach of the peak of the curve? If so, start the planning phase for jumping to the next S-curve. What do you need to do to ready your company for another period of growth? Do you need to financially prepare? Do you need to increase hiring in anticipation? Do you need to strengthen your corporate culture to support your next phase? Decide what's best for you, but always be aware of where your company is on the curve.