May 20, 2017

Harden Your Business and Untangle Your Growth-Driven Knots

By David Mustin, Vice President - Strategic IT Consulting, Marcum Technology

Harden Your Business and Untangle Your Growth-Driven Knots

Every growing business eventually finds itself at a crossroads—a transition point where it must shift from just being good at what it does to instituting disciplines, policies and procedures that will exponentially fuel its next stage of growth.

It’s a matter of practicality, really. Early-stage or fast-growth businesses – whether they’re manufacturing companies, health care organizations or high-tech firms circa Google in 1999 – reach a point at which early-stage infrastructure no longer supports high-touch, direct oversight from the owner, CEO or other senior executives.

As a result, without other structures being put in place, staff start tripping over each other, infrastructure rapidly reaches capacity, and future growth is hampered, because the CEO/owner can’t manage everyone. For example, a phone system and customer support organization that was designed for dozens or hundreds of calls per day rapidly breaks down when thousands of calls come in. Clients who previously had one salesperson calling on them now become frustrated when multiple salespeople start calling from different service lines. Scheduling processes that used to work across one to three teams, rapidly fails under the complexity of scheduling five to 15 teams.

From this point forward, direct command and control over employees and their output must give way to two things. First, processes should be developed and deployed for every business function; this enables employees to leverage a consistent approach that seeks to coordinate teams that function across managers and departments. Second, the business should implement a core set of principles or values that set norms of behavior in all activities.

These two initiatives set the stage for the ultimate goal: scalability. What used to work, no longer works.  This transition through critical stages limits scalability. Some core signs that you’ve run into the scalability challenge include:

  • Profitability, growth and productivity all seem to slow down
  • Staff are running from task to task and never seem to be getting anything done
  • Frustration is increasing as no one seems to be in control
  • New staff are getting hired, revenue and costs are increasing, but profitability is declining
  • Executives are struggling to understand what everyone and anyone is doing

Establishing new processes can be a challenging endeavor. To do it successfully, leaders must look at where things enter and leave the organization and then understand how things move through the organization. All processes start and stop with a certain event—an order comes in and then a product leaves for a client; a customer question comes into a call center and then a replacement product leaves for the client; an order is shipped and an invoice is sent to the customer. Most processes span across multiple people and departments, which is where the complexity comes in and where activities start to break down. Without a clear set of processes, ensuring things consistently come in, move around and leave the organization becomes incredibly difficult.

Establishing core principles or values is critical to guiding the organization in decision making when that senior executive (e.g., CEO, owner, president) is not available to guide those decisions. For example, a core value such as “the customer always comes first” guides the organization such that customer issues should be decided before everything else and in favor of the customer wherever possible. The core value of “Quality is everything” guides the organization such that quality is designed into everything and that no defective products should leave the organization. Core values provide clarity to staff decision making in the absence of that critical leader.

Transforming and un-knotting an organization can be difficult and time-consuming work. Marcum’s Advisory Services Group has deep enterprise transformation experience, allowing us to accelerate solutions for our clients. If you need assistance un-knotting your organization and positioning it for faster growth, Contact David Mustin, Vice President – Strategic IT Consulting, Marcum Technology.