Growing Up, Part II

As I mentioned in Part I of this series, transitions take place throughout our lives and throughout the life spans of a business. There are indicators that let us know a transition is happening. Recognizing them can help us prepare ourselves and the business for this passage. Here are three more of those tell-tale signs.

Money. Money is the lifeblood of every business. If a company runs out of money and the owner doesn’t have a rich uncle or outside investor to provide more, the company is out of business. It can still be operating profitably, but if customers aren’t paying and, in turn, payroll can’t be met and vendors can’t be paid, it’s out of business.

Another lesson we learn is that the speed of cash moving in and out of a company increases as it grows. So while some money decisions might have been able to be delayed in the early years, that luxury may not exist when a company is larger. This increased speed also demands more attention from its leaders, as the decisions being made involve larger numbers that have a greater impact on the performance of the company.

Business Structure. We’re feeling the pain of outdated or insufficient information technology, management systems, and business structures. Just as when our bodies grow out of adolescence and they need a stronger framework to support our adult bodies, the same can be said for a business. The tools we use to communicate with our people and customers and the way we organize information and data need to mature as the company does.

The addition of more people and the added complexity that comes with managing a larger organization dictates that the old way of doing things can no longer work. But if we aren’t aware of the need to address these changes, they can sneak up on us and cause unnecessary expense, miscommunication, and frustration.

Leadership. People start expecting more from us as business leaders than they did in earlier years. At about this time we realize that the game is changing and the leadership skills (or lack of) and practices that worked when the company was smaller don’t work anymore. Our best people now view their job as a career and they want to know that we’re committed to providing them with opportunities for growth.

Leaders of larger companies can no longer hide from the tough decisions that need to be made or uncomfortable conversations that have to take place. It’s part of the job as leaders of a larger company. This also means that while we provide training opportunities that allow our people to grow in their positions, we must also intentionally work on our own leadership development to make sure we stay ahead of the game.

We sometimes resist making transitions because we’re comfortable with the current state of things. It might be painful, but at least we’re familiar with the pain. Moving beyond our current situation means facing the uncertainty of the future.

Recognizing some of these growing pains in their early stages can help us avoid a lot of the frustration and expense that can accompany transitions. They can also help us recognize these passages as opportunities to move the company forward and help us enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

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