Growing a business from the ground up is no mean feat and taking on more employees is certainly cause for celebration. But why is it that new problems start to arise as new people come into the business? Something strange happens, often between the 10-25 employee mark, depending on your capability as a leader or leadership team. It all starts to get a bit difficult. If you’re not careful, a growing and successful business starts to plateau and then begins to go the wrong way.
So, how should you go about addressing these problems, and tackle them before they really start to affect your business?
Prevention is the key to stopping those pesky complications from growing into some real damage. So, we’ve outlined some ways to identify what possible problems might arise from scaling your business, and how to nip them in the bud!
Problem #1: Communication breakdown
By the time you have started adding some serious numbers to your team, one thing will have become abundantly clear: you can no longer regularly catch up with them all. Before, communication was direct, as you could address everybody on your team in a single meeting space. Back then, everybody knew each other’s responsibilities as well as their own, and it is likely that some team members were playing multiple parts to keep everything running smoothly.
This is no longer the case. You’ve hired people for specific roles, and logistically and physically, cannot get everybody into a single meeting space anymore. Communication is no longer direct with each member of the team, and you therefore have to ensure that the flow of information is clear and efficient. Prevention management is difficult when it takes problems a while to get back to you, and team members start to notice when problems are seemingly going unaddressed. This can create a dip in morale.
Your small department team leaders or managers are vital at this stage. They should be in the position to support and manage their own people – and ensure a good two-way communication flow that’s both bottom-up and top-down. All two often, small business, unfortunately, don’t have or support the creation of capable managers – and this is a route cause as to when things start to fall apart.
Problem #2: Expectations
People don’t know what’s expected of them, based on problem 1.
Your colleagues should always know what you expect of them, and vice versa. Your company policy and rules should not only outline behavioural expectations, but the rules as to “how things work around here.”
Job descriptions play an important role in your employees understanding of what is expected of them. They should know more than just their working title; they should understand what role they play in your business, and should know exactly what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them.
These job descriptions are useful on an employment basis too, so that potential employees know what will be expected of them before they join your team, rather than once they are already working for you.
These expectations go both ways, though. Employees expect that you will look after them, and also look after their careers. Many will wonder and ask about career growth pathways in your company, what they look like, and what steps it is that they should take to get those promotions and see that growth.
It is important that you and your managers discuss these concepts and decide what those career pathways look like for your employees before the questions come, so that you have assured and definitive answers to give when they do. Your employees want to feel as though they have a future with you, and that you are as committed to them as they are to you.
When there were only you and a few others in the business, these things didn’t matter. Now they do. And if you don’t get it right, it will make it incredibly difficult not only to hire but also to retain the right people.
Problem #3: Solidifying company culture
Once you have a solid team of employees, there will be a natural culture brewing. This will be determined by things like how problems are addressed, how success is encouraged and celebrated, and the attitudes of the management team.
Every company has a culture, and it is around this stage (10-25 employees) that it will start to solidify. New employees will start to learn that certain things are ‘just the way that it is’ in your company. It is up to you to take active steps to create the culture that you want to see, or else whatever has naturally settled will stick, whether it’s for the best or otherwise.
More people in your team means less visibility for the individuals and their needs, and so in order to create a positive company culture, your individual team members should feel visible so that they are heard, appreciated, and supported, and so that they don’t feel as though problems are just swept under the carpet.
Regular one-to-ones are the best way to keep communication clear with individual employees. It gives them the opportunities to discuss everything we’ve already mentioned; concerns, reach out for support, celebrate success and discuss career development opportunities. One-to-ones build that all important trust, and so when the number of employees to have them with becomes unmanageable, it is vital that your managers step in and look after their people by continuing with the one-to-ones.
Regular rewards are also a great way to recognise individual success, and feed into that positive company culture. Rewards can be anything from positive feedback on a project or in those one-to-ones, to discussions about career progression. Whatever reward is most appropriate, it shouldn’t replace continued support in their position.
Your people play the most important role in setting your company culture. Your management should be proactive rather than reactive.
What kind of culture do you want to see? Where is your culture sitting currently? What role will your people play in getting your company to that ideal?
Your company will continue to change and grow. You’ll take on more employees further down the line, and it is important that you’re ready to consider what problems might arise with that.
Continued growth requires continued adaptation. And sometimes, especially if leading and managing a team of people is new to you, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
At Wright People, we’ve been there. We’ve grown our own business. We’ve written this article based on the challenges we faced – and eventually overcame through the actions we’ve outlined above. If you want to learn from our experience and avoid these problems stifling your growth, don’t hesitate to get in touch here.