Joanna Swash of Moneypenny discusses ‘the lessons learned from rapid growth.’
We all make mistakes. But what is crucial is that we learn from them. And, in particular, we must also be prepared to own them and then share this knowledge with others, so that we can all learn and grow. It’s not always going to be fun, when sharing a cautionary tale of failure, but it’s vital that we embrace and acknowledge these mistakes and share the lessons with others.
We must think and analyse what went wrong, to make certain we get it right next time. This, in itself, will bring with it respect from others. Authentic, compassionate and transparent leaders – who possess an added dash of curiosity – are the future of business. Yet, to foster all these traits, you can’t lead without respect. Therefore, you must swallow any pride and share your lessons.
Given the challenging times which all companies have experienced these past few years, our business has grown rapidly. We have scaled our business model effectively, while evolving and expanding into new markets. However, it wasn’t without its challenges.
Here are my key insights and lessons learned:
Culture, culture, culture
I cannot stress enough, the significance of creating a sustainable, agile and happy place of work. Happy people equal happy customers and, ultimately, an equally happy business.
Growth cannot be sustained without these foundations and values. Great things can only be achieved if the culture is positive. But even if you have a great culture, you will need to prioritise it even higher during times of growth or uncertainty.
We all know how easy it can be to become absorbed in a time-sensitive project that promises great things. Yet, if no one in the business is aware of what the vision is, growth will not be sustainable. It is vital for everyone to understand how their own project contributes to the overall purpose. Remembering who you are as a business is critical.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Defining the strategy, and aligning it to your culture and values, is one thing. Communicating this message to the team, and involving them, is another.
When focusing on the project’s ‘return on investment’, it can be easy to lose people along the way – both physically and mentally. If you don’t keep them up to date, people will no longer feel engaged or connected to your mission. They must always understand the role that they are playing. Ironic really, given the impact on the finances that we know engagement can deliver.
The power of people
This category is two-dimensional: ‘Your people’ and ‘your customers’. I’ll begin with ‘your people’. Collectively, they are your biggest and most powerful asset. You hired them because they are brilliant. They are the ideal fit for your culture and business.
We all know the cost to a business by hiring the wrong person, both financially and culturally. Time is not our friend. But, you know what, make the time or repent at your leisure.
Roles need to be filled quickly. But it is critical to spend time identifying what the role requires. What are the must-have skills? Equally important, what are the must-have characteristics and attitude for someone being appointed to this position? It is ‘attitude versus aptitude’.
Start with the right person, invest in them, and give them ownership, and do it every day. That’s how to build a company that will grow long into the future.
Yet, just as important are ‘your customers’. Without them you don’t have a business. Successful companies are built around customers, exceeding expectations and excelling in service. To do this you need to understand their needs and desires, and then exceed them. You need to be in constant communication, actively listening to feedback. This should be a driving force in every company.
Lay solid foundations
Growth does not always mean success and security. However, if you lay the foundations, it will save time in the long run. But before diving headlong into it, take a step back and assess the status quo. Highlight the areas for improvement and fix them. If you scale with existing problems, you will only serve to intensify them.
My parting shot: Pursue growth only when you are set up to succeed. If you are already being the best you can be, then you can scale successfully and sustainably.