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Growing Your Business Expert Peter Meyer Ready to grow your business by leaps and bounds--in the next six months? Hold your horses there, cowboy. Find out why quick growth isn't always best.

By Laura Tiffany

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If ever there was a time in history where the concept of"time" has lost all meaning, our light-speed info-agemust be it. Computers are outdated as soon as you buy them; most ofus work so much we forget the sun even exists and believe the eerieglow of the PC monitor sustains life; and if you haven'tIPO'd within two years of start-up and/or are over the age of22, you may as well throw the towel in.

Calm down. Rapid-fire growth may not be all it's rumored tobe-especially if your company isn't ready for it or ifyou're not growing for the right reasons. Peter Meyer,principle of Scotts Valley, California-based The Meyer Group, amanagement consulting firm focusing on rapid-growth organizations,provides the tools to grow quickly and wisely in his new book,Warp-Speed Growth: Managing the Fast-Track Business withoutSacrificing Time, People, and Money (Amacom, $25). A frequentcontributor to The Wall Street Journal, Meyer recognizes theproblems that can accompany warp-speed growth and so addresses themain concern of all companies wanting to grow: how to sustain.

Entrepreneur.com: With all the dotcoms, tech companiesand IPOs, it seems that companies grow faster and faster now tokeep up with the competition. Why isn't rapid growth always agood idea?

Meyer: Growth is a tool; it's not an end in itself.Some people use it as a tool to improve the valuation of thecompany. Some people use it as a tool to improve the ability torecruit people. Some people use it as a tool because they want toimprove their own sense of self. Some people use it because theywant to improve the way they deliver products to customers.

Of those, only the last alternative is one that is trulysustainable. The other ones will generally cause problems overtime. So if you're growing for the sake of pure growth,you'll find it hard to keep people. You'll find it hard tokeep valuation. You'll find it hard to keep a sense of selfwithout going crazy. On the other hand, if you're growing toimprove your ability to deliver more products to customers,you'll often find it works nicely if you can control it.

If you want to look at examples, you could look at Cisco as anexample of a company that's growing very rapidly but veryfocused on what they deliver to customers. They're not adotcom-they don't try to compete with dotcoms. What theytry to do is simply be excellent as providing the answers to thecustomers quickly.

Entrepreneur.com: What is jigsaw management and how is itimportant when preparing for growth?

Meyer: It's like when you start a jigsaw puzzle. Ifyou were to say to everybody, "Go ahead and put the piecestogether in the way you feel best," the puzzle wouldeventually get assembled. If you want them to do it under a timedeadline or a money deadline, you might say, "Okay, you have20 minutes to do the entire puzzle," and either they'llsucceed or they'll implode. And the first thing people will dointuitively is find the box top of the puzzle and try to match thepieces to the box top.

Well, in business, we often forget to look at the boxtop-we just go. And the result is you go in differentdirections. Whereas if you look at the box top, people tend to goin the same direction and understand what they're doing, andthey're more likely to succeed. So the message is very simple:Give people the box top when you give them the pieces.

Jigsaw management is really very intuitive. It makes sense ifyou stop to think about it-you can't grow in every direction.And if you have people growing your business in differentdirections, it's pretty much guaranteed to fall apart. Thefaster you grow, the faster it will fall apart. On the other hand,if you keep people focused in the same direction, your growth canbuild upon itself.

Entrepreneur.com: What are important characteristics ofthe "box top"?

Meyer: I think probably the most importantcharacteristics are to make sure the box top is important and thatit's seen as important. Also, that it's well bounded.There's nothing worse than working on something that has noedges except, possibly, working on something that doesn't feelimportant.

Entrepreneur.com: What are your most important resourceswhen your company is growing?

Meyer: This is both an intuitive and research answer.We've gone out and asked a whole bunch of senior-level managersand middle-level managers what resources they think are important,and they always come back with the same three answers but indifferent orders: People, time and money. And the order I just gavethem to you has to do with the order most middle managers use. Mostsenior managers will reverse the first two and say that time ismore important than people are. And you get into a lot of very hotdiscussions about where people relate to time.

But let me explain why I think time is number one. If you make amistake with money, you can usually fix it pretty quickly. You canbuy something, sell something, acquire something, divest something,take a loan or cut costs. You can find ways to get money fairlyquickly. If you make a mistake with people, it takes longer to fix.It can take you six months, a year or two years to fix a peoplemistake and that's a lot of opportunity costs, but it can getfixed.

You only have about 80 hours in the average workweek of yourreaders. When those 80 hours are gone-they're goneforever. There's no recovery. There's no way you can getthem back. They're the most perishable item in the world. Andif you're growing rapidly, you definitely want to conservethose 80 hours as carefully as you can. Not just for you, but foryour people as well. If you're able to use the 80 hours wisely,then your people become more effective, and you need fewer of them.The money you use becomes more effective, and you need less of it.Time is the one thing you have that will help reduce the pressureof the other two resources.

Entrepreneur.com: How important is investing intechnology?

Meyer: One place to invest is always going to betechnology, and most people invest there without thinking muchabout it-that's not always smart. Technology is no morethan a tool. Technology for it's own sake is usually a timesink, which you can't afford. Even buying extra features is atime sink.

Let me give you an example: This morning we were in a meetingwith a marketing firm because we're putting together a launchfor a dotcom company. The head of the marketing firm said,"Well, if you can offer all those features, who would say noto them?" The readers of my book might be the people who wouldsay no because features that don't add value to your daily workshould not be added. They'll detract your best people fromdoing what they're there to do. So technology is a good placeto invest in order to get something else to move your businessforward.

Entrepreneur.com: What is the difference between movinginto new markets and established markets?

Meyer: One of the key things people often want to focuson, but don't know how is moving the business into brand newmarkets. If you're looking for excellence in a market wherethere's heavy competition, you have to be operationallyperfect. You've got to have your costs completely undercontrol. Your marketing and sales have to be refined to an extremedegree, and every mistake you make gives somebody else marketshare.

If you can enter a brand new market-define and controlthat market-you have room for many more mistakes. Yourmargins are much higher. Your ability to experiment is much higher.The pressures are totally different and often reduced. So most CEOsview new markets as a Holy Grail, and most companies don'tinvest in getting to them. They hope to get to them. But ifyou have time and people and money, you can invest them in existingmarkets or new markets or some combination. And the consciousdecision to go after new markets-to control and dominate newmarkets-is a great investment of your three resources.

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