If entrepreneurship were juggling, most companies would be one dropped ball away from the act falling apart. Why? Because entrepreneurs add elements into the mix without acknowledging the tipping point. Growing too fast is not about scalability; it’s not good for business. Despite this grim reality, companies old and new routinely grapple with the consequences of rapid growth. New companies don’t have as far to fall until they hit the bottom. Regrettably, many organizations follow a grow until something breaks path. For example, Zappos’ $1.6 million pricing faux pas, which led to financial struggles and public embarrassment for the online shoe vendor.
The only way to grow reasonably is to put “if this, then this” scenarios into place for all situations — not just for a few clients or employees. If the solution isn’t a permanently sustainable one, it’s not a solution at all.
Create no-brainer workflows
Why don’t more leaders have processes in place? They might not realize how easy it is to test procedures on paper using mathematical equations and logical thinking. It’s fairly easy to spot defects when you start complicating a problem. From that point, you can play around with your process until it’s in tip-top shape.
Every single business function, undoubtedly, needs a written process for other team members to follow. From the customer service department to human resources, anything done within a company must be scalable and have dependable results.
For instance, my company originally implemented a LinkedIn messaging automation service line that could only serve five accounts per computer. This meant we had to invest in multiple computers as new customers came on board. This problem prompted us to develop our own in-house software to handle traffic in a streamlined manner.
These processes ensure that we consistently gather information during client onboarding, allowing us to maintain and deliver a certain quality of service. From the moment an account is set up, we have steps in place to stay on top of every action.
Grow your business without the pains
If you’re ready for big growth but don’t have processes in place, you’re not actually ready at all. You’re simply exhibiting big-picture thinking with your eyes closed.
Don’t reach for growth at the expense of processes. Take the time to follow some tried-and-true strategies before getting into a sticky situation.
Put a step-by-step list in place
Having a standardized routine puts a process in place for even the most routine tasks. No matter who does the job, the responsibilities remain the same. From roles with a few steps to those with dozens, write out every step and then test the process to find any holes.
Plan to revise your documents as often as you see fit. We adjust immediately and don’t stick to a monthly, quarterly or semiannual plan. Our managers are free to adjust any process without asking if it’s no longer working. As long as a process exists, growth can happen at its own rate.
Make sure every service variable is replicable
Never bring on a new service without knowing how you’re going to onboard, run or maintain it. You’ll need processes for every aspect of that service, so forget about launching until you figure out the basics. And if the service can’t be replicated at scale, throw it out.
Yahoo tried to buck this truth when it expanded too rapidly. It might have peaked at $125 billion, but its reputation suffered because its quality tanked. By the time Verizon bought it, Yahoo became a warning beacon for all ventures that dreamed big. When taking your company to the next level, make sure it can sustainably do what brought it to the dance.
Get employees to buy in from day one
Make it clear to new hires that renegade activity could damage client relationships.
For instance, our account managers notate items in Basecamp so supervisors can see what’s happening. If your employees consistently find it tough to stick to protocols, figure out why. It might be a flawed onboarding or training process, which you, as a leader, could address by developing new procedures to tighten gaps.
As UrbanBound research notes, standardizing new-hire training can result in a 54 percent boost to productivity.
Enforce policies and procedures, checking in repeatedly until your team is following guidelines. This buy-in helps ensure your most important resources (your people) are prepared to grow with you.
Before you add any major accounts, products or service lines to your business, take a moment to flesh out your processes. Your future self will thank you for not skipping this vital piece of business advice.
Originally published Oct. 7, 2019.