Dealing with Rapid Business Growth
Working in a business which has seen our team, turnover, and profitability double over the last two years whilst adding the likes of Barclays, HSBC and BT to our client roster, gave me an insight into dealing with rapid business growth and as such I was asked to chair a roundtable at this year’s WEConnect International Europe Conference 2014.
By far the number one biggest constraint to growth that my fellow entrepreneurs raised was attracting the right talent.
Most of the businesses’ felt they had a strong business, great foundations and could see plenty of opportunity in the market to sell more but were scared to because they did not have the team to go out and deliver or the support team in place to help them manage.
The three main areas which arose in our discussion were:
- How to replicate yourself. If you are the business owner, who is also any or all of the COO, CFO, CEO and main salesperson how do you let go of the reins and trust someone else to take one of those roles. When do you do it and how?
- With a bigger team in place how to retain culture, manage the team and offer flexibility in the workplace; and
- How to ensure your growth is sustainable.
As this was a conference for women business owners I would like to point out one observation. We as women business owners are behaving a little like we do when we are employees seeking a promotion. We feel we have to be overqualified for a position before we will put ourselves forward for it, where as we are told our male counterparts feel more comfortable stretching themselves and punching above their weight and their confidence will often get them the position. As Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook says in her book Lean In, “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”
Whilst it is important to ensure you can deliver to your customers demands you also need to think big and stretch yourself, worry about how you will get your team in place can stop you from ceasing some great opportunities.
That said I think to give us the confidence to take such steps we can do the following:
- Cash is King – if you are looking to grow ensure you have cash flow or enough access to funds to see you through your growth period. To take on new major clients or new major distribution channels may be possible and you may get the deal but calculate in the true costs of delivering those additional sales with an extra percentage of ‘faff cost’ as key note speaker Lara Morgan termed it and then look realistically at when you are likely to see the cash income from those new sales and work out how you can pay for it. Once you can do that you have a real opportunity for growth and you don’t need to lose the business on the way.
- Focus, Focus, Focus– firstly stay close to your core strengths and grow from there, secondly when recruiting new team members whether for front or back office put laser focus on the skills and attributes that your business needs and hire to that skill set. Not only the job description but really the type of person and experience level that is needed. Be creative when you are hiring too – flexible working can be a great way to obtain talent that you may not otherwise be able to attract. Don’t go off track, don’t go off kilter, look at the jobs that need doing that you don’t need to do, or that you have no time to do and hire more and better people to do them.
- Fail quickly– If you make a mistake whilst growing rapidly, and you most likely will, as soon as you figure it out, decide how you’re going to fix it and implement. Time wasted will cost you money and be a major distraction. To help you do that particularly with recruitment it’s great to get in an interim experienced person to cover a role whilst you figure out what it is exactly that you need. You can afford to perhaps hire someone more experienced than you might need full time, who whilst doing the job can also apply strategy, help you organise the role, put some systems in place and then help you hire the right person. This is a service we often provide at Halebury to in-house legal teams. Our team are senior enough to go in, work out what’s required and then often help our client hire a more junior full time person. This level of flexibility buys you time to help you get it right. In addition, an interim person with knowledge of your business can continue to be used as an ongoing flexible resource.
- Relationships are everything. Let your clients know what you’re doing and involve your team. Ask for assistance/collaboration and listen to their thoughts. You are probably already working with great people that inspire you so why not involve them in your growth.
- Enjoy the Journey. Rapid growth is hard work but fun. Be clear on why you need to grow quickly and ensure your life and business plans marry up. That way you get buy in from your internal and external teams (yes family need to be along for the ride on this one). Then whilst you are going through the highs and the lows of growing, never forget to stop, breathe and congratulate yourself along the way for the fantastic job you are doing.
The roundtable discussion reminded me that when dealing with rapid business growth people remains very much at the centre of a successful business. Women business owners need to have the confidence in themselves, their team and their ability and not be afraid to grow their businesses. Be bold, be brave but most of all enjoy the ride!
Contact Denise: 020 7127 2500