Twenty-one years ago, I started LaSalle Network. I bootstrapped the company, didn't use VC or PE money, and 100 percent of our growth has been organic. We've grown to 250 employees, we are approaching $100M in annual revenue, and my executive leadership team averages over 10 years with the company.
My HR leader, who started as a college student while working her way through school, has a great expression she often uses:
"I need to keep learning, so the company doesn't outgrow me."
Over the years, we've had leaders who took their roles for granted. Whether it was due to age or tenure, they assumed they owned their role. The company outgrew them. Either it was the scope of responsibility or the hunger and hard work of more junior people who passed them up.
When you're in the fast lane, you zoom by all the other cars. People without emotional intelligence (EQ) are focused on the cars ahead. People with EQ look around to observe what's going on, who's being passed, or why they're being passed.
It's not about what you have done. It's about what you are doing and will do. So, how do you keep pace with a growing company? Great question.
1. Join and utilize peer groups. Keep up-to-date on industry trends, and know what is going on and what your competitors are doing.
2. Learn beyond the industry. Read books and trade magazines, and study businesses' successes and failures.
3. Be giving of your time. As we develop in our careers, we also are developing personally. As we have families and make more money, it naturally leads to less time at the office. However, consider what made you successful: Time at the office, building relationships, and knowing everything that's going on. When you remove yourself, things are missed, and someone else is picking them up.
4. Build vertical and horizontal relationships. What's your relationship with your boss? Are you still adding value to her? Do you anticipate her needs? Are you proactively communicating with her?
Horizontally, are you creating relationships with other managers and peers? If you're not there as much due to a family or things you have going on personally, are your relationships still building? Are you learning about other divisions and units? Do people like you? Will they see you as adding value beyond your "job"?
Most important, are you grooming and teaching the new hires? Do the volumes of people coming into your startup rocket ship (that isn't a startup anymore) know who you are? Do they learn from you? Do you add value to them? Great teachers add more value than anyone else to a growing company.
If you have earned your keep at the startup or growing organization, it will continue to grow with or without you. That was your job. Now, how you impact it and why you are a must-have in the future depends on the value you add tomorrow.