Growing Strong

Imagine your business is a garden. Everything’s blooming, beautiful and fragrant — a testament to your planning, preparation and hard work.

That growth is great, but it requires maintenance. You need to make sure you’re constantly tending to your work, so you don’t end up lost in an overgrown and unmanageable jungle.

Go slow when you grow

Growth is positive. It usually means cash is flowing in and you have the potential to generate more profit. You can become a market leader, perhaps move to a bigger and better office space, attract the best talent, lower costs through economies of scale, survive market fluctuations, and invest in improving your products or services.

But managing growth can be one of the most difficult challenges for a business or enterprise. If you’re in the process of growth, ask yourself whether you’ve achieved what you wanted when you launched your business. Are you prepared to expand? Are your culture and systems ready to cope with the demands of growth?

It’s OK to expand rapidly — in fact, it’s the right strategy for many businesses — but make sure you do it with careful consideration.

Think of the people

One indicator you’re growing too fast can be a change in your company’s culture. Rapid growth can move you away from what made you successful in the first place — being a great place to work. As you grow, you need to invest more time and effort in promoting your culture, and making sure new hires understand who you are, what you value, and why you do what you do.

This might mean regular company-wide meetings celebrating your culture, or appointing cultural ambassadors to keep the heart of your business front of mind. Many large organisations publicly capture and celebrate their values and even create an employee value proposition, clearly describing how they will continue to focus on employee happiness. While culture is something that can’t be faked, you should always make a conscious effort to maintain it.

Get quality under control

Other common challenges with speedy growth include taking on business you can’t handle, stretched resources, and compromised quality of work. If you’re waiting until you’re big enough to establish systems to cope with growth, it’s too late. The time to build in new systems is before you need them, so they’re tried, tested and ready to go.

Being unable to fulfil promises to customers because there’s simply too many of them is a sign of growing too fast. Make sure your vision, values, structure and internal agendas are all well-defined and work in the real world, to help your growing team cope with new demands.

Unmanaged growth can also have an impact on employee morale. If people feel disconnected from what’s actually happening in the business and are being asked to work harder and longer to increase output, they’ll become frustrated and leave for a less difficult job. If staff are struggling to cope with the demands of growth, they won’t have time to be innovative and creative — the very things that contributed to growth in the first place. Give them the time they need by setting realistic expectations and deadlines, or by taking on more staff.

Being a growing business

In the last year The Being Group has grown fast. More than 10 people have joined the business, taking us to over 30 full-time staff.

“We are very aware it’s important to manage growth and it can be difficult. We’ve put a number of systems in place to make sure we stay true to ourselves, and our people have the time and resources to be creative, while coping with the demands of increased output,” says The Being Group’s Principal and Co-Founder, Kerry Neethling.

“We have a monthly meeting on a Friday afternoon, where we talk systems and culture, and everyone has the chance to ask questions. It’s important everyone knows where we’re headed and why. If someone works long hours to deliver, it’s critical to ensure that effort is acknowledged and rewarded.”

“We invested in a larger office space to accommodate everyone comfortably before we needed it, and spent a lot of money on computers and monitors, so everyone has the best tools to do what they need. Our internet service has struggled with the increased demands, so we put time and money into an upgrade. We have a new workflow management system to keep track of everything, and a Project Coordinator whose job is to help everyone make sure jobs are delivered on time, and always at the highest quality. Growth is wonderful, but it takes an enormous amount of effort and planning to keep up.”

“Even if we grow to 50 employees or more, we’ll make sure everyone still gets individual attention, understands their role in the business, and feels like they’re an important part of the team — not just a cog in a profit machine. We check in on how everyone’s going as much as we can.”

Manage your future growth with planning, resources, systems, care and empathy, staying true to who you are and how you started, and you’ll always be smelling the roses.

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