No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. What is crucial is that we learn from them. And particularly in this cover-up culture, we own them and share them with others so that we can all learn and grow. It’s not always going to be fun. Sharing a cautionary tale of failure, for example. But embracing them and sharing them, thinking about what went wrong in order to make it right the next time, will bring with it respect.
Authentic, compassionate, transparent leaders with an added dash of curiosity are the future. Yet to foster all of these traits, you can’t lead without respect. So swallow that pride and share your lessons learned. And in doing so, help yourself and others. It’s a win-win.
And so to business. How can I contribute to this conversation, now that I have set the scene? Given the challenging times that all business has experienced these past few years, our business has grown rapidly, scaling the business model, evolving and expanding into new markets. I would place all of this on the success pedestal, but it wasn’t without its difficulties. Whoever said that the road to success never did run smoothly wasn’t joking!
Reflecting upon our journey, here are my key takeaways:
Culture is king
I am all about the value of culture. I can wax lyrical about it for hours. I cannot stress its significance for a sustainable, agile and happy place of work. Happy people equal happy customers equals happy business.
Often, in times of rapid growth, numbers and metrics are given priority over the fluffy stuff. However, growth cannot be sustained without these foundations, values and cultures upon which great things can be achieved. Even if you have a great culture, in times of growth particularly, you need to prioritize it even higher.
Think about it. We all know how easy it can be to become absorbed in a time-sensitive project that promises great things. Yet, if no one in the business knows what the vision is, or how this project and its amazing results will contribute to the overall purpose, the growth will not be sustainable.
Remembering who you are as a business is critical.
Communication is queen
Next, you need to articulate this to your teams. Defining the strategy, and aligning it to your culture and values, is one thing. Communicating this to the team and involving them is another.
I return to my previous example. In focusing on the return of the investment of a project, it can be easy to lose people along the way (physically and mentally) if we don’t keep them up to date and have their buy-in. And if people aren’t engaged, or aren’t connected to your mission and vision and understand the role that they play, leading through rapid growth will be tough.
Ironic really, given the impact on the finances that we know engagement can deliver.
People are the prince and princesses
This one has two elements. Your people and your customers. I’ll begin with your people. They are your biggest and most powerful asset. You hired them because they are awesome, they fit with your culture and your business. They are the reason that you are at this stage in the business.
So, why when in rapid growth do we hire at speed? To fill the position, tick the box and move on? We all know the cost on the business of hiring the wrong person, both financially and culturally. Because time is not our friend. You know what, make the time. Or repent at leisure.
Roles need to be filled quickly; I get it. But it is critical to spend time identifying what the role really does require. What skills are must-have and also equally importantly, what are the must-have characteristics and attitudes for the position and the company. It is a question of attitude versus aptitude.
Start with the right person, invest in them, give them ownership and do it every day. That is how to build a company that will grow long into the future.
Just as important are your customers. Without them, you have no business. Successful companies are built around their customers; exceeding expectations and excelling in service. To do this you need to understand their needs and desires and exceed them. You need to be in constant communication, actively listening to feedback. I would hope that this is what is driving your rapid growth. It should be a driving force.
Set yourself up for success
Growth isn’t everything. It doesn’t always mean success and security. It can be, however, if you lay the foundations. So before diving headlong into it, take a step back and assess the status quo. Highlight the areas for improvement and fix them. Scale with issues and you only serve to intensify them.
Pursue growth only when you are set up to succeed. If you are already being the best that you can be, then you can scale successfully and sustainably.
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