Growth is a great thing for businesses, but sometimes it can move too quickly for founders to keep up. This increase can occur unexpectedly when marketing is more effective than anticipated, or a viral moment draws more eyes than planned. However, it can also occur when growth is planned. I've dealt with this firsthand building my software development company Agent Beta, and my personal media company Andrew Medal Media.
While all of these may seem like good problems to have, they still require careful management and response.
Regardless of your industry, an overworked staff means an underserved clientele. Fostering a commitment to sustainable practices and sensible growth is critical, according to Founding Farmers, the most booked restaurant in the country on Open Table for five years running. I spoke to Dan Simons about this exact conundrum as we connected in my Facebook group for entrepreneurs.
The need for staff expansion can come quite suddenly and unexpectedly even with the best laid plans, according to Dan . There are several key factors they use to make sure that every restaurant in their Farmers Restaurant Group keeps operating smoothly and with the necessary support, even during the busiest of times.
1. Keeping communication channels open.
“The most important way to manage your growth is to keep your communication channels open, all across your business. Sharing information and reinforcing the vision is important, but listening, truly listening, may be even more important. You need to keep a pulse on your staff, see through their eyes on specifics, and know what the general mood is,” explains Simons.
While this isn’t a measurable metric, it’s important that you stay in tune with the general tone that staff have. This includes everyone, not just your managers. Keeping a pulse on the mood of our establishment is especially important if it’s changing for the negative. Are they stressed?
Discontent may look more like an increase in sarcastic jokes, general bickering, lateness or even mentions of sleepiness or other difficulties outside of the workplace. Even for the short term, it is important for staff to feel supported and heard. This may mean looking for more help and hiring additional employees.
Or it may mean sitting down with employees to rework schedules. Sometimes, all it means is merely having a conversation or an acknowledgement of a busy time (especially if it is a short term increase). Any appreciation, or better yet, a reward for the extra effort will make a world of difference.
2. Preparing for increased work with increased staff.
It may seem obvious, but it is important to add more staff as your company commits to greater output, even when it is unplanned.
Whether your company manufactures electronics, provides medical care, or entertains the public, when you commit to producing more, you need more human resources.
Ever wonder why HR is called that? The people on your team are the most important part of your business. Make sure you don’t wear your employees out by asking them to do more work within smaller parameters, with less time and less money.
“With each new restaurant we open, we hire and promote staff not just for the new location, but also for our existing ones,” says Simons. “Because we effectively publicize our newly opened restaurants, this often increases diners returning to or trying out our other restaurants. By planning ahead, we empower our staff to prepare for what is coming by focusing on their development and career growth opportunities. Individual growth is a vital ingredient in the recipe for company growth.”
He explains the result is win-win for everyone, but especially for their guests. Because of the staff feels supported, clients get to experience a celebratory experience across our restaurants during our busiest times, rather than “frazzled, burned-out service.”
Related: How to Hire Like a Pro
3. Use the hiring and initial training process for management intel.
During a planned expansion, which is usually the best case scenario, you can create exactly the team you want. Allow time and thought to go into organizing your hiring and training so you can most accurately assess skill sets and personalities.
“I always love the hiring and training process for a new restaurant,” explains Simons, “because we get a sneak preview of not only what staff are good at but also what kind of energy each person will bring to the restaurant. With time, we can begin to piece together a working group and see the culture of a new community taking form.”
According to Simons, this process takes a lot of time, oversight, and commitment to high standards from the management team.
“In our new restaurants, part of our training involves days and evenings of simulated dining service before the opening, where we can see how planned staff are doing, what they are good at and what they aren’t, how they work together, or don’t, how the menu is working, and where we need to make adjustments.”
However, this kind of planning can make a new business soar from the first day. Without it, success is possible, but it’ll more likely take at least a few weeks, or even months of struggle, until you get into a groove. Or it can result in total failure.
4. Promote from within creates staff loyalty and company consistency.
When planning for your expansion, consider how best to use existing staff. This shows that you notice their work and reward exemplary performance.
According to Simons, “when we started planning Farmers & Distillers, we knew the new restaurant was going to need a lot of the wisdom and oversight of our beverage director, Jon Arroyo and our executive pastry chef, Amanda King. To accommodate this also meant we needed to promote up the chain to cover some of their responsibilities. This gave staff promoted and even those around them a big boost of confidence, and created consistency across the brand.”
5. Support your managers, your talent, your team.
Whether you’re promoting outstanding employees, or bringing in new talent to expand your offering, make sure that your managers, your bottom line talent, and all of your employees have the support they need to do their jobs well.Remember why you hired them and exactly what you want them to do for you. If at all possible, avoid adding more tasks to an already full docket. Overburdening is a sure way to make employees feel stretched thin and unable to excel at the job they were hired to do.