Your company has grown from humble beginnings into a solid, durable enterprise. You've done the same things for years, and have been fairly successful.
Now comes the challenge: Success has brought you to a point where the old ways of doing things are no longer as reliable as they once were. Processes that were cobbled together are stranded under the weight of increased sales, the sheer number of new clients and new work. Administration is juggling the human resource needs of all the employees who have been added. Departments have grown many times over the years and are still laboring to keep up. Your sales team is looking for guidance and direction from you. Advertising needs are increasing. Marketing must be unified and organized. Corporate rebranding is being considered. These are stressful situations, requiring your attention and eating up all the hours in the day -- everyday.
How you act now is critical to the life of your company. Now is the time to put your ego in your back pocket and sit on it. The future depends on the moves you make now.
- Review the history of the company. You started it, you built it. You know every nook and cranny. Enjoy the success on a very real and personal level. Be proud of the growth of the company and yourself. Be humbled by the fact that you have had a lot of help along the way from good employees, advisors and vendors. And don't forget the customers who've had confidence in your product or service.
- Understand the issues. Growth has required you to analyze the different processes that make the company work. From the time a customer walks in the door, or the first telephone contact is made, or the first e-mail is received, your employees and your customers must navigate the internal workings of your operation to ensure a successful outcome. This is where the rubber really meets the road. Smooth, defined, detailed steps should be scripted and written down. This allows you to see gaps in the process. It identifies the stress points vulnerable to ambiguity or sloppiness, which can creep in and endanger your best practices. You also have the opportunity to improve the process and enhance the experience for customers, as well as staff.
- Think ahead. As you look back (don't forget to enjoy) and analyze your current situation, you must look over the horizon. Change is inevitable and it's critical to identify the additional load and stress continued growth places on the inner workings of the company. You must also see the changes necessary to drive your product or service development -- new lines or offerings -- and make plans for them. Now, as your company continues to grow, is a good time to see how your life/work balance will be affected.
- Show me the money. With change generated by growth, the last thing you want to leave to chance is financing. When your company was just a startup, you probably supported it out of your pocket or didn't take paychecks when the operating account was low in funds. Unless you have the deepest of reserves, you'll eventually be unable to provide the needed funds. There may come a time when you need to seek middle-market funding. Is this a good time to take a look at equity financing, bring in investors, add shareholders, explore real estate or equipment purchase leasebacks? Be honest if you don't have this type of background. Don't wait to bring in professional advisors or consultants. While they may seem too expensive at first blush, in the long run, you'll benefit handsomely. Their knowledge about the more nuanced workings of capital will return their fees many times over.
- Team Build. Gone are the days when you can have your hands in everything. Even the most driven executives should understand that delegation is a necessity. Without allowing others to own certain responsibilities, the company will suffer from your inability to either control or lead at every level. A strong team of people who know their jobs, take initiative and see your vision, is priceless at this stage of a business' growth.
A solid team is the key to the next level of success. The team members' skills and management of their areas, groups and departments will maintain the momentum. Focus on building the best team, and make sure the members fit like a glove not only in the business aspects, but also in the culture and future of the company.
- Self Assess. This is the hardest of all the steps to continued company success. You must look very honestly at the level of you own skills. Do you have the personal tools, mental wherewithal and management experience to lead beyond today's level? You've brought the company all this way, and you should take pride in your achievement, but you shouldn't jeopardize that pride by inserting your ego into what's purely a business decision. Can you lead for another year, two or five? Perhaps at this point, wisdom says that it's time for professional management and executives to take the helm. This could be where you get to boot yourself upstairs. Consider relinquishing the President and CEO titles to a hired hand -- hopefully someone you have groomed -- and elevate yourself to the Chairman's role. That could be your crowning jewel, your cherry on the top of the cake and the strawberries on your ice cream sundae.
If you see yourself in some of the foregoing, feel fortunate, not every business owner gets to contemplate some of these issues. Few of them have experienced the success that has moved their company to new heights. If this applies to you, you're indeed blessed. You're also at a crossroads. Decide the future of your company carefully. You and your employees depend on it.