Rapid Growth Causes Overwhelm

Rapid growth causes overwhelm, especially for small business owners who haven’t taken the time to plan in advance. They set up their business and start the marketing without any road map for growth. Then as new business opportunities come their way, they step up to meet that demand, until one day they realize they have no time for anything else. They are overwhelmed and putting out fires.Stress and overwhelm caused by rapid growth

I’ve been meeting with a business owner who suffers from rapid growth and no plan to manage that growth. He wants my help with the company’s social media marketing. But the owner keeps missing meetings. He’s constantly putting out fires that get in the way of finalizing an agreement with me. His company has grown so fast, he is trying to serve his customers, take on new jobs, and cover all the bases ….without any office staff.

The business has grown beyond the point where the owner can handle all the back office work – accounting, payroll, taxes, hiring and training – as well as work in the business. Until he gets organized and hires one or more people to run the business operations, he likely isn’t ready for my marketing help.

He has established offices in several locations across the US and is in the process of training staff to manage the local work at those locations. Simultaneously the business regularly gets new projects to take on since it has successfully become the exclusive resource recommended by several realtors in the business owner’s headquarters location. Without staff, he has to serve those customers.

Meanwhile, he also handles back office paperwork and staff training, in addition to marketing and local community involvement. He’s understandably overwhelmed and things are falling through the cracks.

Does this sound familiar? Is your business suffering from rapid growth?

Marketing is not the issue here. Getting yourself organized and hiring at least one other person to handle the back office stuff is the key. If this resonates with you, it’s time to take a step back and analyze what’s happening in your business and the steps you need to take to rectify the situation. This is lesson 101 in Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth.

Step One – decide what you really want from the business. First, write down the broad goals you want for the business. Then, begin working backward to today following the next steps. Look back at where you started and where you are today. Have you achieved the initial outcomes you set for yourself? Perhaps it’s time to set new outcomes, or a new target to reach for a year down the road.

Step Two – once you set that new target, identify the critical goals you need to achieve in order to reach the new target and how you are going to measure your progress toward those goals. These should include staffing and delegation, financial goals, community involvement, perhaps even head office relocation. Perhaps it’s time to move into a larger space that also affords you storage space for all the business materials you use.

Step Three – look again at your current situation and how stressed you are. What is and isn’t working right now? Analyze your own strengths and weaknesses as a business owner. What do you enjoy most about running the business? What do you enjoy the least? What do you do well and what tasks do you not do well? These will help you begin to see areas where you can delegate once you find and hire the right people to take on these tasks. This will add to the payroll. However, if you don’t do this, you may find your company retracting rather than growing. You have reached the point where you either choose to grow or you lose ground. Companies can’t remain static they must continually adapt and change. There is always someone else ready to move into your territory and take over. You need to get yourself organized and learn to delegate to staff and/or outside contractors so you can spend most of your time working ON your business rather than IN it.

Step Four – Look at the new outcome(s) you want to achieve a year or more down the road. Look at the goals you set in order to achieve those outcomes. Then take a look at your current situation and what is and isn’t working. You should see some areas which become the key strategies to focus on in order to keep growing in an organized fashion and reach the new outcomes. They may include:

Staffing/training:  Hiring a COO take over the operational details of running the business, and coordinating the operations at the various locations.

Financial:  Outsourcing your financial management, bookkeeping and tax management tasks so you can focus on doing what you enjoy and do best.

Marketing: Outsourcing your marketing and social media efforts to keep your business top of mind and maintain customer satisfaction.

New offices: Relocating out of the small office or even home office may now be necessary, especially as you contemplate hiring a COO, a bookkeeper or CFO, and/or marketing staff.

Rapid growth can be managed with planning.

Planning frees you up to manage your business. You need to spend your time focused on the long range outcomes for the business, maintaining community connections, and ensuring your staff  is delivering the quality service you demand for your customers.

Your job is now to provide the checks and balances to ensure everyone is doing the right kind of work towards achieving those targets you set. In fact, keep in mind that the primary job of leaders is planning and managing change. Some of your tasks will include:

  • Holding periodic meetings to get updates from everyone on what is working well and what isn’t, and make joint decisions about resolutions to any problems or challenges that arise.
  • Keeping people accountable for doing work that ties directly to the critical goals you’ve set in order to achieve those future outcomes.
  • Monitoring external factors and changes in the marketplace, the economy and your industry that could affect your company’s progress towards achieving its future outcomes.

The result is that you’ll be better organized, happier, and less stressed. Things will stop falling through the cracks. You’ll be able to make and keep commitments. Your customers will be more satisfied. Your staff will more satisfied and goal-oriented. You’ll have a team that is pulling together in the same direction, instead of trying to do things on their own without direction, and delivering less than excellent service. You’ll have a much better chance of actually achieving those new future outcomes for your business. It won’t be without its own challenges. Things will occur that may derail your progress, but if you revert back to these steps and stay focused on the key strategies and goals, you’ll get yourself back on track quickly.

Why is Business Planning So Difficult?

By Eric A Denniston, Managing Director, Denner Group International 2-20-2-13

Takeaways: Business planning requires strategic thinking and analytical thinking skills. It’s important to understand the difference between the two. Best practices include having clarity about where your business is going, keeping the planning process simple, and involving your staff in the planning.

Nearly all small businesses struggle greatly with most everything having tPlanning mazeo do with planning for their business. The most obvious obstacles are the basic resources of a small business: time and money. I have no doubt that the two most overlooked obstacles to business planning are the lack of management commitment to planning and the lack of skills in planning. Planning skills are not a subject generally taught in school at any level but perhaps graduate degrees and beyond which mystifies me.

So much really good material has been produced about best practices in business planning but it’s not emphasized enough. If you, dear reader, agree with me, read on. If not, you may be among the few who are well-practiced in the disciplines, skills and arts of business planning.

Discipline and Concentration Required

Most small business owners, naturally, wear many hats. This has the effect of preventing one from devoting the discipline and concentration to actually doing the planning, and much more importantly, to establishing the processes and structures to support the execution of those plans. So, what can business owners and managers do to effectively and efficiently introduce profitable planning activities to their organization?

First, I suggest you recognize that planning skills are learned mostly through practice.  However, in addition to courses at your local colleges, a great resource is a local or online consultant that can also more easily tailor some instruction to your needs.

Second, also recognize there is a learning curve that might delay your progress in planning. This you can overcome by hiring a consultant to facilitate some planning sessions for you. The big advantage here is that you can learn along the way. A good consultant trains and coaches you through the planning process so you and your staff can build the skills your organization needs.

Third, become serious about having discipline in your planning programs. Keep it simple at first, but plan on building your programs to an optimal level for your organization. When you set schedules for planning meetings, stick to them. If you don’t, you are telegraphing to your staff that planning really is not that important to you as the owner or manager. And insist on attendance at the meetings. Make it part of staff evaluations to participate in planning meetings.

Best practices to implement immediately

> Gain clarity on the distinction between strategic planning and operational planning. Strategic planning is creating a Vision and a Mission, defining the values that guide the organization’s behavior, and determining what positioning the business wants to have in the eyes of the customer, not in your eyes. Strategic planning is also about laying the general route of the journey the business is on to reach its vision, defining the key success measures you will use to know you are still on track. It is about having clarity on where the business is today and what its strength and weaknesses are. It is about defining the core strategies you will follow and the key action items to implement to achieve the vision. And finally, it is about constantly scanning the external future environment your business operates in to better address the changes you’ll have to make in the future on your way to your vision.

By contrast, operational planning is concerned with the tactical issues of running a business. Budgets, meeting schedules, action plans to support the strategies, setting policies, defining roles and tasks, outlining market segments and pricing, hiring, firing, advertising, etc., all are part of your operating or business plan.

Recognize then, that you should have two separate plans – a strategic plan and a business or operating plan. And develop them in separate sessions, with the strategic plan first. Also, more importantly, recognize that each planning process actually involves thinking very differently. This is a distinction that schools should teach.

 

Most of our schooling is in how to think analytically or tactically, therefore, we are under-prepared to think strategically or systemically. This means we need to make sure we build up our strategic thinking skills. Much has been written about this so you can search the internet for books, articles and courses on this. But, you can also learn while you do the work, which often is the most productive way to do it. Consulting firms like ours help you do just that.

> Another best practice is to keep it simple. Just the idea of a planning session will make most business owner and managers roll their eyes as they think of how of their employee’s time is tied up in doing this. A carefully laid out plan that accounts for how your business and employees must operate is an important factor in efficient planning. The skills a consultant brings can help enormously. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have yet to find an entrepreneur who did it all himself or herself. They found good help along the way so don’t be bashful about asking for help.

> A third best practice in keeping it simple is to use a framework tool that I know works in all sizes of organizations. Called the EABC model for planning developed by the Haines Centre for Strategic Management, this model has you answer five questions in this specific order:

  1. What are your desired outcomes –  your future desired state?
  2. How will you know you are on track to reach them?
  3. What is your current state, which can easily be achieved with a SWOT analysis?
  4. What do you need to do to bridge the gap from where you are today to your future desired state? and
  5. What will be occurring in the future that will affect your achieving your future desired state?

If you would like a free copy of this model, please visit our website to download a copy.

Best practices in planning also include an understanding of the time required to draft a plan. And don’t forget, the time to establish the structures and processes to make sure the plan(s) are implemented or executed. Too often, once a plan is drafted, nothing happens because this crucial step is overlooked or ignored. We actually recommend a brief,initial “Plan to Plan” session to set the stage for success before you implement. This allows you to identify the personnel, financial and time resources required to truly achieve a successful planning program.

If you are conducting your first strategic planning process, I recommend two full days in an environment that eliminates distractions. A retreat is a good idea, but what is important is not being distracted. A good, experienced facilitator can make this happen in one day but what will be missing is some training for the staff on the planning and implementing processes and structures required.

Also, be inclusive with your staff. Let them know what is going on and be prepared to involve and engage them in the planning process. Again, an experienced facilitator can be very valuable in coaching you on how to engage staff, keep them informed, and on what to engage them in.

To wrap up, let’s remind ourselves of some key practices in planning.

  • Set a schedule and stick to it.
  • Be inclusive and keep people informed.
  • Build planning skills any way you can.
  • Understand the distinction between strategic planning and operational planning and do them separately using the appropriate way of thinking.
  • Establish the structures and processes to ensure your plans are executed and measured efficiently.

To speed up or simply make the planning happen, don’t be bashful in asking for help. A few hundred or thousand dollars for a consultant’s help could mean 10 to 100 times return on your investment, and likely more engaged and productive employees in your organization.