Getting started in a business is an exciting time. There are lots of things going on, and when those first customers start to roll in, it can get hectic quickly.
In the earliest days, the business is structured in a way that the untrained eye can understand. With most functions handled by the entrepreneur or partners, there’s not much complexity in business operations.
As the business grows, though, that must evolve. The model that works for two people operating from the garage will not sustain them into dozens or hundreds of employees. It’s not because the products are bad, but it’s because functions that were once done mentally by the owners must now be done in a more overt way.
Here are some examples of what we mean.
When the company is small, it’s very easy to make adjustments to processes in order to achieve product outcomes profitably and efficiently. If you have a landscaping business and you do all the mowing yourself, your customers will tell you directly that they’d like the grass a little shorter. You’ll adjust the mowing height and make a note on the client’s file that they prefer a closer cut. Process management complete.
But what happens when you’re doing complex projects involving lots of vendors and suppliers, subcontractors, and shippers? How do you know how to work through adjustments and keep everyone abreast of them? How do you even know what adjustments to make?
Entrepreneurs in growing businesses need training on this expanding process. In programs like lean six sigma green belt, business owners learn the ins and outs of how to choose, define, and manage projects in a way that’s profitable and effective.
When you started out, you had probably realized you had a talent for your particular business. Consequently, you set out to make the most of it and let it build your company. In time, as you added people, you identified those with talents that can help grow your business.
But talent is not a static quantity. The skills someone has on the first day with you will expand over time, and the better you do at fostering talent growth, the more advantageous it will be for your business.
Some people may fear to develop their staff so well that they become overqualified and go elsewhere. And while that is a legitimate concern, it’s worth remembering that if you developed that person, you can develop another. And what better endorsement of you as an employer could you have than former workers who attribute their success to what they learned from you?
A fundamental human resource concept is synergy, the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is often illustrated mathematically as 2+2=5.
When it’s just you and a partner or two with your noses to the grindstone, your synergy is in full effect. Your equation might just be that 2+2=5.
But what happens when you add in more factors? What if you have ten or 50 or 100 different people, who can be added together in different combinations to create different products? If you’ve only ever put 2 and 2 together, you may not realize that one of those 2’s could go with a 7 in another area to make 12.
So you have to shake things up strategically. Desk hoteling is a great strategy for this. It allows people to reserve workspaces, moving every so often. Not only does it save space when some workers operate remotely, it can also encourage people to gravitate toward others with whom they can create some synergy.
All of these ideas carry some real potential for you to grow your business, but they are all fundamentally linked to bigger businesses. A one- or two-person show won’t have these opportunities, so you must be prepared for them in order to make the best of them when they materialize.