Back in 2015, my partner Kurt Wilkin wrote,
The market is hot, business is rocking and you’ve got an opportunity to really “make hay while the sun is shining.” You firmly believe that your company can grow from $10 to $20 million or from $20 to $40 million over the next two to three years. Regardless of the beginning number, you think you can double the size of your business. But ask yourself – how are you going to get there?
He was exploring hyper-growth and the reactive nature of many middle market companies in adding talent to facilitate that anticipated growth. This article looks less at the negatives of being reactive and more at a few foundational items necessary to proactively handle growth in a nonreactive fashion. Those three items are “go slow to go fast,” hire ahead of the growth curve, and be conservative in estimates and vision.
Just as a farmer doesn’t simply cast seeds into a field and expect crops to grow, organizations have to slow down, temper their enthusiasm, and set up the foundation for growth.
Go Slow to Go Fast
“Go slow to go fast” has always been sage advice from one of my mentors and it is foundational to preparing for growth. Just as a farmer doesn’t simply cast seeds into a field and expect crops to grow, organizations have to slow down, temper their enthusiasm, and set up the foundation for growth. Begin by documenting everything you know, such as:
- Current growth rate and expected growth rate
- Cash burn rate
- Gaps in the current org structure (pain points that are either process or people)
- Timelines/Gantt charts for key milestones and ownership
- Clear job descriptions for today’s roles and for the future state organization
- Clear accountability charts in the future state
- Forecasted income/expense in future states
With all of this information aggregated, we can begin to put together a financial plan, a talent plan and an execution plan. I’ve always looked at the financial piece after putting together talent and execution plans. Then if I can’t make the finance piece work, I can come back and make adjustments to the time component for talent and execution plans.
Hire Ahead of the Growth Curve
If at all financially possible, try to hire ahead of the growth curve. The damage and lasting cost of lowered service levels or product quality directly caused by insufficient talent planning is not worth it in most cases. Customers and potential customers are key for continued growth and, as such, their satisfaction must be prioritized. Electing not to prioritize maintaining service and delivery will impact future sales, current retention rates, and long-term profitability.
The last piece to building a great foundation for growth is being conservative when evaluating risk. When you’re sitting in the conference room and the white board looks like Rain Main met Beautiful Mind, don’t forget to evaluate risk.
My experience is that bringing in a trusted partner to challenge or push assumptions is more than worth any cost that might be involved. There’s a tendency to look at the vision, become enamored, and minimize risk. A trusted advisor or advisory board is that critical piece to reeling you back in with realistic questions about people, process, talent, and finances.
I’ll end this article with this inspirational quote:
Direction is so much more important than speed. Many are going nowhere fast.
Slow down so that your business can go fast. Be proactive in creating the foundation in which your growth will flourish.