You’ve moved beyond 50 employees. I remember experienced business owners telling me when I was on the leadership team of a growing company, “Watch out. When you get to 50 employees, everything changes.” My frustration was that no one would tell me exactly what those changes would be.
Because of the 7 Stages of Growth enterprise development model, I can shed some light on exactly what those experienced individuals were cautioning me about and hopefully save you hours and days of frustration.
As a Stage 5 company, you have 58 – 95 employees. The company is beginning to align itself – sales and marketing understands and is involved with product development. Customer service is tied into every aspect of your operation. As the CEO, you are operating in a proactive, systematic manner instead of a reactive, scattered approach. You have trained and/or hired qualified managers and their divisions are operating on solid ground.
There’s a subtle difference now that you have ‘breached the 50’ – while managing this dynamic organization is your number one priority, you have to shift ever so slightly into a more visionary role. No longer invisible to the outside world, your competition will likely heat up because you are now playing in a larger fishbowl.
Your top 5 challenges include:
Improving sales – Of the three gates of growth: Profit/Revenue, Process and People, your #1 priority and focus should be Profit/Revenue. Because you are entering a larger competitive domain, you need to focus more of your energy on developing new opportunities and cementing key relationships with current customers.
Difficulty forecasting problems – Larger is more difficult and in Stage 5, it’s easier for problems to simmer underneath your radar and create cracks in your armor. Staying alert, not allowing mediocrity to set in, paying attention to the little things (never assume your vision and core values are safe), will help you continually stay ahead of the tidal waves that can sink your ship.
Cost of lost expertise – Your second priority of the gates of growth must be your People. It’s harder and harder for your employees to feel ‘valued’. It’s more difficult for you, the CEO, to ‘touch’ every single person in the organization. You need to maintain a constant vigilance to stay on top of how your managers are aligning employee performance to company goals. That’s the hard part. The easy part is for your employees to disengage because they aren’t feeling ‘valued’ and decide the grass is greener someplace else.
Weak profit design – Focusing on Value Exchange, Organizational Structure, Business Development, Operating Systems, and Knowledge Management are good places to start in evaluating your profit design as you move into Stage 5. Assuming that what worked before will continue to work is a mistake many leaders make as the company grows beyond their capacity to manage all aspects of their business.
Staff training – Do each of your departments have their own budget with spending discretion? Do they understand gross margins, how the company makes and keeps money? Is there an intentional training program in place for all employees that is focused on company health and goals? How much of your budget have you allocated to training? For my money, training your staff on Company Goals, Company Issues and Company Priorities is far more productive at this stage of growth then sending them to expensive conferences and outside training programs.
Where Stage 4 was all about developing strong independent departments, Stage 5 is all about Integration. Because you took the time to develop strong fiefdoms in Stage 4, the art of integration will be much smoother.
Lead by showing that you value people’s input and you work to get commitment through participation, not dictatorship. Having spent the time and energy to build a great team, look to them for guidance and advice in their areas of expertise.
Teamwork and collaboration are crucial as you lead your team into the future.