When you are running a business that’s growing fast, you either figure out all the details that will help you accelerate your growth, or you crash and burn.
Asha Saxena has run multiple high-growth companies, and today she’s helping CEO Coaching International clients who are growing upwards of 300%. How? By putting proven, practical steps in place that lead companies around these five common pitfalls and on their way to more BIG.
1. Hiring quantity instead of quality.
When business is booming, someone has to answer all those ringing phones, process all those orders, and ship out all that product to keep all your new customers happy. But CEOs who match rapid growth with rapid hiring could be putting their company’s long-term health at risk. According to Asha, “the biggest concern high-growth companies face is having the right plan so they don’t sacrifice on the quality of hiring the right people.”
Hiring someone right now just because you need someone right now isn’t just a potential culture and productivity killer – it can be an expensive mistake to fix. No training program, no floor-level manager, is good enough to smooth out too many rough edges. And if you hire the wrong person at the C-Suite? Cutting the chord and hiring another executive will cost you.
“The best companies hire the best people,” Mark Moses says. “No excuses, no compromises.”
2. Failing to define specific hiring needs.
So how do you whittle down that stack of resumes as quickly as possible without sacrificing your standards?
Step one is know what you need and where to get it. Does your company need more full-time employees who will be with you for the long haul, or contractors for a short-term burst of productivity that will get you over the next hump? Does your HR department have some promising interviews lined up, or do you need to work with a recruiter who can bring a fresh perspective to your staffing needs?
If your hiring plan is just waiting for the right person to reply to ads you’re posting on job sites, you need a better plan. “I recommend that CEOs put together a whole plan for recruiting that has well-defined steps,” Asha says. “Know exactly what you are hiring, and explain that to the internal and external recruiters to make sure that they understand what you are looking for.”
3. Ignoring culture fit.
Nothing will kill your growth faster than bad culture. “Make sure that when you are interviewing candidates, you are double-checking and making sure that their value system matches your value system,” Asha says.
Establishing a strong corporate culture from the top down is one of your key responsibilities as CEO. When every single team member in every single department knows what your company stands for, it’s going to be a heck of a lot easier to figure out if a potential hire will fit right in, or if he or she might gum up the machinery. But with management or C-Suite hires, you’ll want to dig deeper. Once HR has narrowed down the field, have a face-to-face with candidates on the short list. Ask them what they like about your company, what their ideal work space looks like, the kind of culture where they excel, past work experiences, good and bad, that have led them to your front door.
Some things are negotiable when you’re making a new hire. Culture fit is not, especially if maintaining a high-growth path depends on this person.
4. A lack of consistent systems and processes.
Once you’ve made that perfect hire, your new superstar’s performance – and your company’s high-growth goals – will depend on how well-defined your company’s processes are.
“If I’m a call center, it is really important that the call agent has a clear idea of what my process is,” Asha explains. “When the call comes in, what happens? How do I record it? And how do I do a handoff? If it’s a customer support department, what happens when a customer calls? How do I log the problem and issue the ticket? And how do I assign an engineer? If it’s a retail center, how do I check the supply? How do I transfer to my warehouse? It’s not that Sam comes in and creates his own process, and when John’s doing the work there’s something else. You want to create a process which is similar and has less errors.”
The biggest difference that we see at CEO Coaching between high-growth companies and the ones that stay stuck in neutral is that big performers nail down all these details in company-wide planning sessions. And the absolute best CEOs are smart enough to let a third-party facilitator run these sessions so that the CEO can participate in connecting everything Sam and John do to the company’s BIG goals.
“The annual planning session requires three levels of commitment from the CEO: Planning the event, executing it, and following through on its key conclusions,” says Mark Moses. “Step 3 is critical and where mediocre companies and CEOs usually fail. At the end of the planning session, summarize the results and communicate it to the rest of your organization. Develop a regular meeting rhythm, such as a monthly review of the plan, and hold your team accountable for hitting the targets.”
5. Poor discipline.
Growth is exciting, but it’s also dangerous. You’ll be tempted to cut corners, to do what’s easy right now instead of what’s right for the company’s future. You could burn through cash overextending your resources. Or you might overextend yourself working long hours, neglecting your own health and sanity.
“The most important thing an entrepreneur or CEO needs is to have discipline,” Asha says. “When I’m talking about a high-growth company, having the discipline to be focused and make sure that you don’t sacrifice the quality of people, processes, and technology. Making sure you’re keeping your eye on the ball and you know what your numbers are. You make sure that the culture is not getting distorted. Having the discipline to create the planning session, having a plan so you can look at it and refer to it is critical. You need someone to hold you accountable.”
1. Quality trumps quantity. A high-growth company doesn’t need more employees. It needs more great employees.
2. Complement your culture. New hires should enhance what’s already great about your company.
3. Stay disciplined. Commit to the standards and processes that ignited your business in the first place.