The stages of growth

Those who know me will understand how passionate I am about how growth businesses – also referred to as gazelles. There has been extensive research into accelerated performance, however few studies have pointed to the practicalities of the assistance pivotal at each stage of growth. There is undoubtedly some common ground and overlap across the different phases, however some conclusions can be drawn in relation to – what support is needed at these critical milestones.  My experience shows that companies hit major challenges at a number of key points of their growth journey, particularly as it appertains to staff and recruitment:

Deciding to employ – one of the biggest hurdles many individuals face after starting up is the decision to start to employ staff. This is when the reality of running a business sets in – another mouth to feed, responsibility and the need to deal with issues such as PAYE – these are often viewed as time-consuming non value adding activities.

When a business reaches 5-7 employees – this is when a company starts to take shape and the founders find themselves faced with a set of challenges they never envisaged. Leadership skills become tested at this point as does managing people and cash. Funding for growth becomes a critical issue.

When a business reaches 25-30 people – the leaders are now faced with the issue of relatively high monthly costs to run the business. Structure and team working becomes vital. I believe this stage presents a real danger zone as organisational development, financing along with more strategic selling become vital to sustained development. It is at this point that business owners set out to recruit a sales manager/director – a challenge for many! Financial control becomes a full-time job

When a SME approaches 50 people – corporate thinking and mindsets are presented with KPIs becoming even more important as business issues become more complex and demanding. Management teams become preoccupied by sustainable revenue streams – key functions start to emerge and divisional perspectives give rise to profit centre management. Tight operational monitoring, management and control need to be embedded to ensure lean processes prevail. Staying ahead of the game is vital otherwise a disconnection from the market place will lead to stagnation and potential decline– not a good place to be!

An entrepreneurial mindset conducive to embracing constant change is vital to making the above transitions. The most common challenges for entrepreneurs along the journey present themselves in the form of how to achieve good practice in relation to:

  • Achieving clarity in relation to business and personal aspirations – vision, strategy and plan
  • Creating a point of differentiation for sustained growth
  • Effectively embed great sales and marketing in  competitive environments
  • Create a sound organisation– the right team in place all working towards a common goal
  • Financial engineering – getting the right funding in place and managing the finances
  • Managing costs and ensuring lean and efficient processes across all function

Non-executive directors (NEDS), coaching and mentoring prove to be vital external inputs to addressing these key challenges and stages of growth. As Jim Collins puts it disciplined entrepreneurship is what all organisations should aim to achieve.

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