It's Business 101 to have contingency plans in place for when things go wrong. But, conversely, are you prepared for growth and success? What if it turns out your positive expectations were too conservative? What if an unexpected celebrity endorsement sends demand for your product soaring? On a more practical--and likely--note, as the economy shows signs of turning around, are you ready for what that will mean for your operation?
Here's what you need to do to be prepared for growth:
- Know what growth means for you and your company.
To prepare for something, you have to know what it is and how you'll recognize it. Growth is more than just hitting a set of numbers--it's a package that includes changes to your company in terms of operations, production, staffing and facilities. In addition, think about what growth means to you personally. What will your life be like when your company grows and profits increase? How hard are you going to have to work? Are you ready and willing to do what it takes?
- Maintain relationships with your funding sources.
The faster you grow, the more cash you're likely to need. Growth financing is every bit as hard--if not harder--to obtain than startup funding. Do regular cash-flow projections so that you know how much credit you're going to need well before you have to start writing checks. Develop and maintain strong relationships with your funding sources and be sure to have primary and backup sources available. In today's financial climate, it's harder than ever to predict credit availability, so stay on top of your cash and financial needs to give yourself have plenty of room to maneuver when it's time to borrow.
- Get comfortable being in the spotlight.
Successful owners of growing companies are almost always in the spotlight to some degree--maybe not always to the general public but certainly within your industry and with your employees. Be prepared for a level of attention that you probably haven't received before.
- Hire people based on where you want to be, not where you are.
The team that can successfully run a $1 million company is not the same team that can run a $100 million company. If your goal is growth, hire people who can perform in the size company you want to be--they'll help you get there.
- Put the right people in the right places.
The right people doing the right jobs is absolutely critical to sustain growth. Whole person assessments and job benchmarking will allow you to take a systematic approach to hiring and career development, which will reduce your mis-hires and employee turnover.
- Take care of your people.
Your employees are what keep you successful. Recognize and reward that. Working in a high-growth organization is stressful and challenging. Take note of your employees' work and respond appropriately, or risk losing top talent. Create an environment where people are willing to work through the growing pains. In addition, take care of your suppliers, professional advisors and anyone else who can have an effect on your operation.
- Listen to the experts.
You may be an expert in your business, but you don't know it all. What's more, there often will be experts who know more about particular parts of an industry than the insiders. Identify the experts, listen to them and learn from them. Let them help smooth out your learning curves and keep you on your growth track.
- Stay close to your customers.
No company can do without customers, and if you don't stay close to them, you'll lose them. Know what they need, but more important, know what they want and do everything you can to give that to them. Most important, communicate. Never let your customers wonder what's going on. Tell them--whether it's good or bad.
- Focus on your core business and don't get distracted.
Stick to the business your company knows best. Be sure any diversification or product line expansion you do makes sense. If it has nothing to do with your core business don't get into it just because it seems like a good opportunity. Otherwise, you'll you confuse your customers and your employees--and you'll likely find that dividing your efforts reduces the quality and profitability of everything.
Just as you plan for when things go wrong, also plan for when things go well. When you're prepared for growth, you better can manage the changes it brings and let it take you to the goal you set when you started.
JK Harris is the founder of Flashpoints Consulting, LLC and of JK Harris & Company, the nation's largest tax resolution firm. He is the author of Flashpoint: Seven Core Strategies for Rapid-Fire Business Growth, available from Entrepreneur Press, a popular and respected speaker, as well as a business consultant advising mid to large-sized businesses around the world. For a free subscription to Flashpoints newsletter plus a free copy of JK Harris' ebook, The Mindset of High Achievers, visit theflashpoints.com.