Managing a high growth business has many challenges. Whilst it’s an exciting time and a great position to be in, a business can face hurdles when the growth causes quick and widespread change – as it more often than not, does.
Change isn’t a bad thing. All businesses evolve through various stages of growth. One of the biggest barriers to successful growth comes when a business fails to manage that growth internally.
I’ve learned first hand many of the lessons of managing growth within a company and making change the new “normal”. Harvey Water Softners has experienced significant growth in the past couple of years and, having started life as a small family business back in 1978, we’ve worked hard to retain that family business feel, despite employing over 150 people today.
One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is how important it is to watch and observe. As your business grows, your employees will feel that growth in the way the company is structured, perhaps physical growth in the office, more members of your team, changing processes and systems. All of this is going to have an impact on their experience at work and it’s key that, as a manager or leader, you’re sensitive to that.
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To use a manufacturing analogy, business cultures have just as many intricate inner workings and rules to follow as a manufacturing line, built up over many months and years. Any changes to the organisation should be considered in terms of the impact not only to the company itself, but to the people within it.
In line with this, it’s also important to keep the lines of communication open. Of course, this is no new idea and every manager should be committed to being available to their employees. This is particularly pertinent in growing companies where any small issues can quickly grow if people have no forum to voice them.
This communication goes both ways, too. Let it be known that you are there to represent the team and to make sure their voices get heard. Communicate with your teams about what is happening. Within our business, we make a concerted effort to share our strategy and vision with the whole company so everyone knows where we’re going and how we plan to get there.
The culture of your organisation will influence how you explain your aims. In the case of Harvey Water Softeners, the goal was to shift production from low volume, labour intensive manufacturing to higher volumes and improved efficiencies. Because the production team there had been doing things the same way for years, a tight-knit family culture had developed. While it was important for the business that changes were made, maintaining that culture was just as important.
Understanding this persuaded me to introduce each goal steadily, drip-feeding the goals to the team one-by-one as clearly linked steps on a longer journey. That way we have maintained pace, boosted morale and avoided any “change fatigue”.
Especially if your business is one with a strong culture, fast growth comes with many challenges. While it looks great on your bottom line, growth is only sustainable when real change is made across the business to support it. As leaders, we have a responsibility to manage that change and maintain the key parts of that culture to ensure we can continue to grow well into the future.
Martin Hurworth is technical director at Harvey Water Softeners.
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