By Michael Kurland, an entrepreneur who mortgaged his life savings for his first company, Branded Group.
As entrepreneurs, risk-taking is in our DNA. It’s why we started our businesses, why we forge ahead through challenges and also why we are never satisfied with the status quo. Pushing yourself to think outside of the box so that you can stay ahead of the ever-changing business environment is the norm for any savvy business owner.
It’s been nearly four years since I started my company and we have grown by leaps and bounds due to the talent and dedication of my team. Their commitment to delivering excellence on a daily basis is the foundation for our continued growth. However, the team on day one looked very different than the team I lead today.
The Starting Lineup
In the early days of any new business, it is customary to hire a team of seasoned professionals in senior management positions to oversee a team of individual contributors. This organizational structure fits well as your business is in startup mode. Workloads are manageable and your leadership team is able to interact daily with their direct reports.
It is during this time that you can evaluate your team’s work style, their strengths and how they act in a crisis. However, it is also an ideal time to note the movers and shakers in your organization.
- Who are the team members that go the extra mile?
- Who just seem to “get it?”
- Who is able to take the ball and run with it on a regular basis?
These are the people who are likely to advance quickly in the organization and as their leader; it’s your job to nurture this ambition and drive.
The Halftime Show
Once your business begins to experience regular and predictable growth, reevaluate your organization chart. Are teams getting too large for one person to manage? Are these teams too diverse in their functions and need to be separated into new departments? Are the movers and shakers ready to take on additional leadership roles?
In order to continue along a growth trajectory, your team has to be able to support that growth. Staying ahead of your growth curve when it comes to developing your team is critical to avoid the stress associated with unmanageable workloads.
Being proactive with human resource management enables you to evaluate people’s skills and career aspirations. Not everyone wants to move up the ladder, but many do and it is important that comprehensive educational programs are in place to support these moves. This is not just a business best practice but also serves to incentivize your team as they can see a clear career path for them in your company.
The Game-Winning Shot
As individual contributors move into a middle management role, there are several dynamics at play. I considered each of these as I created this first-ever management level in my business.
- Can they manage a team of people who used to be their peers?
- Will they be able to separate their work from their personal relationships and lead effectively?
- Is the team ready to be led by the same person who was in the trenches with them for so long?
A new manager’s ability to lead a team can only be successful with proper training, coaching and open communications. As you build a middle management layer into your organizational structure, it will be critical to have all of these pieces in place so that everyone can see your commitment to making this transition as successful as possible.
Your business is ever-evolving. And as leaders, it's important to keep your eye on your long-term goals. Preparing for continued growth should not be left for end-of-year reviews but examined whenever there is a major change. For example, prior to signing on a large client, take a look at the teams who are supporting them. Is the business set up for success so that customer service is not impacted? During performance reviews, are employees itching for more responsibility? Do new laws or regulations dictate revised business processes?
While it is exciting to watch a game-winning shot by your favorite team, leaving the planning of changes to your organizational structure to the last minute - or worse - leaving it to chance is a risk not worth taking. Leaders must lead by example. Showing your team that you’re proactive about your business growth will inspire them to reach for more.
Michael Kurland is an entrepreneur who mortgaged his life savings for his first company, launched Branded Group in 2014 with a sincere desire to #BeBetter.