Managing talent and cultivating a winning workplace
Read part one: How to avoid a tumble when your business expands.
While growth is a major goal for every small business, successfully sustaining it can be a delicate balancing act. Each new milestone brings different challenges, including how to build a great team. How organizations tackle those challenges will ultimately determine their fate.
Leaders are often confronted with issues such as cash flow management, hiring the right staff and keeping them motivated as they magnify their footprint in the market. The better they prepare and plan for these challenges, the more successful they’ll be in minimizing any negative effects.
“Expansion can be a terrific motivator,” says Chinwe Onyeagoro, President of research and management consultancy Great Place to Work in an article by Fortune magazine. “But the revenue generated by each employee often declines when headcount goes up. Leadership decisions made early in a company’s growth are critical to building a culture that stays competitive as the organization scales.”
Further, businesses want to grow by nature, points out Margie Humphreys, President of Watermark Partners, a Halifax-based consulting firm.
“Usually my clients find me if they want to grow but are stuck — or if they’ve grown but need to deal with the aftermath,” she explains. Humphreys recommends these companies develop a shared statement of what they want to do, based on where they are, where they want to be and what’s going on around them.
Your team helped get you there
Communication is foundational to any growth strategy, Humphreys says, noting it’s critical to keep people involved and “bring them along with you” during the expansion phase. This is particularly important in smaller organizations where there might not be dedicated teams dealing with hiring, training and onboarding. “Most small businesses are owner-operated, so it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day,” she points out.
Due to owners’ busy schedules, it’s hard to recognize opportunities to reorganize the business and take advantage of the situation. Loyal, long-term employees are every employer’s dream, Humphreys says. So before reevaluating staff, companies should reexamine the work that needs to be done in the expanding operation.
“I’ve worked with small businesses where, after expansion, the whole staff sat down together and looked at all the work that needed to be done. Then they crafted their own jobs and workflow,” she says. “The results are efficient and for the most part guarantee a good person-job fit.“
Foster a positive workplace culture
Corporate culture is another aspect of growth to which CEOs must pay careful attention. While the leader heavily influences culture, everyone in the organization makes a contribution — for better or worse.
With growth comes new people entering your company’s orbit, so it can become more difficult for leaders to exert control over culture — and they run the risk of having it derailed, says Firas Kittaneh, CEO of eco-friendly mattress company Amerisleep.
“To do this well, let your company values guide all of your decisions and hire great people who will embrace their role as champions of the organizational culture,” he says. “With allies on your side at all levels of the business, your culture will be allowed to grow and flourish.”
Let your values be your guide
Across businesses surveyed by Great Place To Work, employees’ scores for executive effectiveness, innovative behaviours and fair treatment were among the fastest to decline as companies increased in size.
“This is where growing SMBs can grab an advantage. While their competitors struggle with lower productivity, great employers can keep team members giving their all,” says Onyeagoro. “This is why your values should inform every decision you face as the organization grows.”
“Stay plugged into your employees’ experience at all levels, and resist the temptation to compromise on culture in the rush to fill new management roles.”
Click here to read part one, which examines how a disciplined approach to management can ensure prosperity and longevity.