Rapid growth sounds like a pretty awesome problem to have. But when my company's three-year growth exceeded 1,700 percent, the expansion tested the mettle of everyone on board.

To survive such explosive change, you have to balance spending on human resources, marketing, and customer service all while trying to navigate a new path for your business. Take time to plan so your business's growth doesn't derail what made it successful in the first place.

Two Questions to Guide Your Growth

The one thing you don't want to be is the kind of boss who lurches from idea to idea. Constantly changing course leaves your employees wondering what direction they're supposed go, and that's a productivity killer. So the key to dealing with rapid growth is to take a breath, assess the lay of the land, and plan.

Begin by asking yourself these two questions:

  1. What do I need to capitalize on this growth? Chances are you'll find yourself needing some combination of extra people, better technology, improved processes, and new suppliers. Most of that is going to cost you, which brings us to the next question.
  2. How am I going to pay for it? Even though growth brings in more cash, it also sends a lot of money out the door. One way to prepare is to think about how your company makes a profit. Perhaps it maintains a high gross-profit margin, leverages a dedicated distribution channel, or uses proprietary software or processes. Invest in the people and gear that support your profit growth.

Reviewing your books can also tell you whether you have the cash reserves to master the transition. If you don't, look at other ways to raise funds, such as loans from banks and investments from venture capitalists. This may be easier if your business is a corporation, but not necessarily. Check out "Don't Let Venture Capitalists Force You to Convert to a C-Corp" to learn more.

Let It Go

Scaling up also requires some letting go. As the Harvard Business Review explains, successful organizations recognize that growth often means dropping unnecessary...

  • Positions.
  • Products.
  • Processes.
  • Strategies.
  • Services.
  • Rules.

The article suggests a weekly, all-hands-on-deck meeting might fly for a small staff (and it did for us for a while), but once that staff quadruples, it's probably something that needs to go.

Thornier issues could impact your people, too. For example, discarding someone's pet project or rewriting roles to better support a process can cause employees consternation. It's tempting to tell unhappy staff to simply get over it, but the fact is their low morale can be infectious. And it's not only your employees you have to worry about. Customers may feel it, too.

Communication is one key to getting this right. Clearly explain the reasons for your decisions and how they fit your core values to keep employees on the same page. Remember, however, that good communication also requires you to listen. Employees who feel heard are more likely to accept change, even when it doesn't go their way.

Don't let your own success be your downfall. You can navigate rapid growth by assessing your situation, making profit-supporting investments, and letting go of what no longer serves your business.