“If everything is under control then you’re probably not going fast enough.”Marco Andretti - American auto racing driver.
If a business is growing fast, it should always be running ahead of the existing processes and therefore, if the aim of the business is to always be growing fast, you should permanently be in a state of chaos – make sense?
It’s hard enough to communicate in a permanent state of chaos, but how on earthdo you structure everything so it still actually works? The first thing to do is to adapt the right approach, i.e. to accept that if you’re doing well, then the structure is always going to be - at best - a patchy solution that constantly need attention. It’s also never going to work perfectly, so when it doesn’t, just deal with it and don’t throw all your toys out the pram - that doesn’t help anyone. The key thing to remember is the structure is always fluid, until such time as your growth slows to 10-15% year-on-year, at which point you can fill in lots of little charts and boxes :). As a general rule, the amount of structure and process should always be running slightly behind the appropriate amount for the current size of the business. It’s much better to err towards chaos, than to go the other way and err towards too much process and rules, which can quickly kill any fast growing business.
When there are 3 or 4 of you in a room together all the time, the structure - like the communication - doesn’t matter that much, but again now is the time to start practicing getting it right, when it’s more of a ‘nice to have’. As you grow beyond four, to five, to ten and then ten, to fifteen and then fifteen to thirty, you’ll need to update the structure (and when the pace speeds up, you’ll wish you planned it months ago). The good thing is, there are often many warning signs that things are spinning out of control; projects or work being done and no one knows who made the decision to do it in the first place or why, things slipping through the cracks or in some cases gaping holes and everyone assuming that someone else was looking after it, invoices not being sent out or not collected ( a serious one) , people being moved from one role to the next, or being employed and when they turn up none knows who employed them, or why?! Key things like the business name, or strategy, or logo being changed and you only find out after, or even worse when you're actually in front of a client… all of these I am proud to say we have done at RFi Group, some many times and also many others I haven’t listed here for fear of embarrassment! All these mean that it’s time to sit down look at the business and work out the optimum structure for the time being.
( NB - At RFi Group we gave up designing organograms because it took too much time and they were out of date too quickly.)
When this happens, you will invariably have to deal with some ego issues. When you are small, people out of necessity must wear many hats - but as you grow, roles become busier and more specialised and the team needs to focus more and more on specific skills or areas. Logically this represents career growth and advancement and everyone should be happy, but human nature often doesn’t work like that – humans develop ownership and don’t like giving things up! Usually if you give people the choice of choosing they will naturally soft select i.e. choose the things they are best at and which you as a business want them to focus on. Sometimes however, people are weirdly obsessed with an area for which they have no affinity of ability and then you need to have an honest or hard conversation.
Remember, as long as its fluid and constant, then with all the changes sooner or later everyone will be happy and the way to do that is to keep growing – so how do you do that? By focusing on opportunities - my next topic.
If you like this blog, find it useful, or think it’s interesting, please share it and if you have any questions at all please feel free to comment – I am always open to a conversation.