Is Your Organisation Prepared for Rapid Growth?
Is your organisation ready for the difficulties in operating during a time of rapid growth? Do you stand to deliver upon or violate the promises you've made to your customers?
We’re continuing our series exploring the most common reasons for a small business biting the dust, and today we’re going to elaborate on a somewhat counter-intuitive factor that we’ve seen eat up small and medium-sized businesses: growth. It’s counter intuitive largely because each and every business is aiming for growth; it’s the proverbial peak that every organisation is aiming at conquering, but as you’ll discover, if you don’t have the proper set of plans in place and a set of procedures for your operations - and the suppliers that you deal with - all this rapid expansion can ultimately be the demise of your business.
We’re not sure who first penned the phrase “failure to plan is planning to fail,” but we can’t agree more- particularly when you factor large scale, unexpected growth into the equation. Business is often like a lottery: sometimes you’ll be waiting weeks, months and years for that magical period of expansion, and other times you can strike it lucky overnight.
Organisations that haven’t carefully thought out the planning of their operations and core procedures will often buckle under the weight of inundating orders that stem from increased demand.
The base of the problem exists in the fact that a business’ policies, procedures and operations might have been suitable when they were, for example, producing three-hundred bathroom fixtures per week; but what happens to those same policies when an influx of orders comes in. There’s number of potential short-fallings in the supply chain, in your quality control in times of expansion and the potential to violate the promises you’re making to those customers.
Something to take very seriously is the shift in emphasis and core existence of your business from quantity, rather than quality in times of rapid expansion. This isn’t explicitly a recipe for disaster if you can maintain the quality of your products during times of rapid expansion, but more often than not, there’s external factors out of your control that you need to keep a close eye on.
While your organisation might be able to keep up its end of the deal, there’s weight to the argument that your suppliers may not. They might be understaffed, or be lacking in the infrastructure to keep up with the demands of your business, but because they don’t want to lose a client - particularly one that is expanding - they’ll say they can still deliver on the end product. This again ties into the common theme of upsetting your customers, which should be a core part of your organisation’s why.
Here are some key indicators that your business is buckling under the weight of rapid expansion.
-An increase in customer complaints.
This is often a sign that won’t present itself until it’s too late. As we’ve mentioned, priority number one for your organisation is maintaining and aiming to over-deliver on the promises you’re making to your customers. You want them to end their experience with your organisation believing that you and your team go above and beyond in terms of delivering on your promises made.
If you see one complaint turning into two, especially if there’s a common thread in the complaints, it’s time for you to take a step back and analyse your operations. This is what a management review session is designed to do, but in some instances, you won’t have the luxury of time to wait around for a quarter to roll around before taking a look at your operations.
We’ve seen time and time again managers in an organisation trying to ride out a storm with their existing team, even if the number of internal complaints skyrockets. There’s a valid argument somewhere inside the belief that rapid expansion can be transitory, and you don’t want to over-extend your resources, however if you don’t provide your employees with the resources they need, you’re playing a risky game.
Not only will they be unable to keep up with the increase in demand, if you continue to stretch out your employees too think, you’ll risk a decline in your productivity levels, and potentially lose valuable employees. The management team exists to provide the business with exactly what is necessary to excel; be that redundancies in dire times, and expansion of staff in times of expansion. Too often the management team will remain complacent about hiring staff, and we’ve seen this play out to the detriment of both the organisation, and the customer’s that begin to feel as though they’re no longer valued or a priority for the organisation.
The final - and most obvious - sign that a period of rapid expansion has taken its toll on your organisation is the fact that you’re losing customers. More specifically, you’re losing clients that have been with your organisation for a long period of time, and as we just mentioned, begin to feel as though they’re no longer valued. You need to operate with the belief that every client is important, no matter how lucrative or modest their dealings with your business are. We’ve seen a number of organisation’s we’ve dealt with drop the ball when it comes to delivering on the promises made to older clients while trying to court a new, larger contract.
If you can identify any of these signs in your organisation, it’s time to have a serious think about the way in which you’re operating. A quality management system is no doubt your best option in terms of the future-proofing of your operations - and implicit promises - made to customers, particularly in the wake of rapid expansion.
Growth is no doubt what we’re aiming for, but it needs to be tackled head-on with a plan that can sustain the promises you’re making to clients as you expand. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you’re inundated with complaints from clients; it could be your undoing.