The 4am Wakeup Worry: Growing the Team

In this blog series, we explore the worries that hinder the world of high-growth and the concerns that entrepreneurs and business leaders share. David Staveley, CFPro consultant and leading industry and growth expert, shares his own anecdotes and insight on conquering concerns, overcoming stress and building a business that sees long-term growth, and a happy team. In this blog, he talks about concerns surrounding team growth. 

If you’ve survived your start-up phase, you’ve done well. But you’re probably starting to realise that a change in culture that comes with business growth means that the team you initially hired to get your business started, may not necessarily be the same team that is needed to see you to business maturity. It may also be that certain bad habits have started to emerge in your business and you’re under pressure to make drastic changes, or risk serious business damage. You may be facing a lack of skill and resource to power through towards next stage growth and the complexity that comes with business growth through acquisition, merger, market listing or funding overshadows the excitement of moving towards your next level of growth. New compliance requirements mean that because you are growing, you are also entering into a completely new operational requirements which you may be unprepared for, and you’re asking yourself the following questions:

  • I have a lack of knowledge, so where do I go to find the skills and scale-up support that I need?
  • I realise that I cannot do everything myself, how do I hand over critical tasks to new members?
  • What if people don’t deal with things the way I deal with them, or how I expect them to deal with them?
  • How do I get myself up to speed quickly on complexity of employment regulation – like being taken to court by an employee?
  • How do I make sure that I’m hiring people who will have as much passion for my business as I do?
  • Business changes have meant that staff morale is on the slide, with workloads and problems increasing. How do I change this, when there is no end in sight to
  • the growth and more will be expected of them?
  • How do I get my management team to work together effectively when there is discourse in the ranks?
  • I have a severe shortage of the right skills I need for my business to grow. Where do I find what I need?

David says:

These are a number of questions that many entrepreneurs ask themselves, but many questions with just one or two overarching aspects for a successful fast-growing business.
Self-awareness – I must analyse my own skills and weaknesses plus recognise what I enjoy doing.
The Team’s skills – Being aware of what the organisation is good at doing in house and where additional in-house skills and/or external support is required.
The future – Think through what is the future likely to throw up.
Team building and morale – Work towards having an enthusiastic, committed and relevant team.

Skills! Skills! Skills!

For many entrepreneurs who are looking towards growth, the first thing to do is accept that you do not know everything and that you can not do everything! Something easily said, but difficult to execute. Realise that both ideas and support can come from a variety of sources. First look at your team and their prior experiences and see if there is anything you can learn from them. Some of the largest projects that I have overseen originated with ideas that senior managers had come across and researched. Do not disparage conversations in a social setting with your team to flush out good ideas. Ideas that are internally generated will normally attract more enthusiasm and commitment from your employees.

However there are times when you will need to cast the net wider and to go outside of your organisation. For new skills that you could introduce, you should look at the marketplace – what your competitors and other similar organisations are doing. Then talk with your external advisors and professionals that you have met to see if they can be of use in supporting you or if they have any other ideas of skills that you could develop. External training courses are also a great way to up-skill your team to achieve the desired skills for your business objectives; there are plenty out there but do ensure to get references from past participants and choose the correct course suitable for each individually, carefully.
When it comes to support, recognise that if you try to undertake a significant project or change entirely in house, then some of your team will be taking their eyes off the key business. So cost in temporary assistance for the core business as well as one or two experts to work with your team, but always ensure that one of your team is leading the initiative, to keep every project centrally focussed and in line with your organisational ethos.

I can’t do everything. But how do I ensure my company still goes where it needs to?

As businesses grow, they become more complicated and require different talents. That’s standard. Working with professionals can help cover the gaps but critically, you also need to ensure you have the right team around you. And there’s one easy place to start. Yourself.  Are you the right person to drive the next stage of your company’s growth?  You may be a great starter of something, but can you sustain it? Quite often, the two aren’t the same person. Twice, working overseas for a multi-national group when I had driven growth hard, I was moved on and replaced by a consolidator. Growth was my driving ambition, introducing new business areas (and also cutting some), but it was recognised that the businesses had reached the stage where consolidation was required. I am not sure if the individual concerned was happy to find himself replacing me for a second time, whilst I moved on to pastures new, but I believe it was the right course to take for the overall growth of the company.
Look carefully at yourself and if the finances support it, find somebody to complement your skills and give them the authority to run part of the business. At an early stage, it will probably be a specialist you require to cover an area such as sales, operations or finance (the boring bits) whilst you concentrate on new developments and growth. However you will probably reach the stage where you need a skilled generalist to take over as COO or even CEO whilst you move to more of a Chairman’s role along with concentrating on developing the key growth areas.

Getting yourself up to speed quickly on complexity of employment regulation

When I was in South America, two of us went through the daily legal bulletin of up to 120 pages of new laws, supposedly separated by sector. We spotted some money saving opportunities (very often not under the correct heading as Ministers often bragged that they made their money on leaving government by interpreting the laws they had introduced whilst in office) but the best interpretations still came from our professional advisors.
You need to have an overview of legislation and what may apply to your business, but you need to work with experts who understand the detail. Labour law is a tricky one though as you need to take personal charge of ensuring that your team follow the correct practices and procedures when dealing with their people. You need to earn the respect of your employees and have it known that you will personally take action if something is going wrong and try to remedy the situation before it goes to a Tribunal but we all have stories of cases that do end up in the tribunal despite all our best efforts.
I once had an employee in a responsible position who claimed long term sickness yet still managed a full 18 hole round of golf once a week. His dismissal inevitably ended up in a tribunal and we had to settle on an unsavoury level of compensation, despite the strong case we presented, but it was worth it to put a permanent employee in his place who would do the job.
Look out for the journals that will give an overview of new legislation and new interpretations relevant to your sector and check if there is a law firm that has a regular email bulletin of new regulations (I receive two which I skim through).

For years now, CFPro has been helping business leaders achieve finance operational efficiency which has not only given leadership teams the space and resource to be able to focus on growth, but ensure that the business itself is positioned and ready for the next stage – whether this meant acquisition, sale or public trading. If you are ready to hear more about how we can help your business, it’s time to talk to us. 

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