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Rapid growth can feel like a mixed blessing. While you're reaping the rewards of rising revenues and an expanding business, unbridled growth can become a burden and bring to light organizational issues and bottlenecks.
While most companies plan and strive for growth, not all are adequately prepared to manage it when it happens unexpectedly and hastily. As the saying goes, "when it rains, it pours."
Fortunately, there are things you can do before you find yourself swimming in more business than you had ever anticipated. I can recommend the following from my own recent experience managing a significant surge in demand:
Expect the unexpected
When you meet with your team or board for the annual review of your long-term strategic plan, be sure to explore a spectrum of scenarios related to targets, from falling well short to knocking everything out of the park.
Carefully consider how each situation would impact the organization's numbers in terms of employees, costs, resources, and so on. Knowing your threshold before a jump in growth occurs will enable you to recognize early when you're reaching capacity, and allow you to react with agility because you already have a plan in place.
You don't want to find yourself sacrificing the high quality service or products that brought you success in the first place.
While this type of planning can be time consuming – even bordering on excessive – you'll be thankful you've done it should your business suddenly take off.
Another reward for your efforts is that you only need to go through this exercise once, tweaking it accordingly during subsequent annual reviews and intervals of growth.
Create a culture where employees feel empowered
Confident, self-reliant employees are better equipped to handle the high demands of accelerated growth. It's no secret that micromanaging is passé, so here's another simple strategy to empower employees: Ask them how they could do their jobs better and ask them often.
No matter whether your firm is underachieving or overachieving, proactively solicit your employees for suggestions on how to streamline processes continually. Make this a part of your organization's DNA so that existing and new employees will be naturally inclined to think innovatively.
With a well-established culture of empowerment in place your employees are more likely to snap into problem-solving mode than feel overwhelmed when business spikes.
Give consistent feedback in good and bad times
You need to be honest with your employees about their capabilities so you know what they can handle when you're moving beyond critical mass.
Recognition when they're doing well is equally as important as constructive feedback when they're not. Knowing where your teams' strengths lie will help you better allocate their efforts and improve their chances of success.
This may in turn give those employees a renewed sense of purpose in their role in helping the organization to achieve its goals.
Take advantage of existing technologies
The right tech tools and systems will be your most powerful ally when it comes to managing growth. Canada's best managed companies cite investments in information and communications technologies as critical to driving sustainable growth.
In today's world, the beauty of rapidly advancing and open technological enhancements is that it levels the playing field for small to mid-sized companies who don't have the same capital as large corporations. Begin investigating the tools that can help you scale. And remember, these can take time to implement so don't wait until the monsoon hits to get started.
Extreme growth is a good problem to have, so long as you're prepared for it. Simple strategies such as benchmarking organizational stress points, empowering employees, optimizing efficiency through vital team feedback, and leveraging technology to create scale will ensure continued success when your company finds itself on a hot streak.
Doce Tomic is president and CEO of Credential Financial, a national wealth management firm owned by Provincial Credit Union Centrals and The CUMIS Group. He is also a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors and TEC Canada, a peer advisory group for chief executives.