Managing rapid change: Growing from eight people to 600

In this article, Jesper Frederiksen shares his advice on how to manage your business as it grows from acorn to oak tree to forest.

It’s a great sign that in the current economic climate, we’re seeing more and more small start-ups that aren’t staying small for long. The rapid growth of a business was once held back by the technology structures adopted in the early stages of a company’s development. However, modern business technology, such as the cloud and mobile computing, is easier to integrate and adopt than ever before, and fast-growth companies are reaping the benefits.

However, rapid growth within a business results in similarly rapid change. This change can be in the form of employee numbers, business objectives, senior management and direction. I know from experience that these changes need to be managed if a business is to make the most of rapid development and growth.

Create a culture of creativity and a business of brilliance

The first objective for any small business going through a period of change is to implement business processes that reflect the company culture. This is especially important for companies opening regional offices where culture shifts come with the territory. Your employees are the ones dealing with workflow processes and practices, so it is vital that you make these processes as adoptable and easily usable as possible – especially in terms of flexibility in how you sell and serve customers. Mobile workers and flexible hours are trends which we are seeing more often, and need to be adapted to. The key to this is using technology that makes an employee’s life easier and the customer experience better.

More of your workforce is conducting business on the move from mobile devices. Adopting the right cloud software service provider is one consideration that expanding businesses cannot ignore. Document management in the cloud enables information to be shared securely whilst providing accountability and traceability on regularly used business documents like contracts. As a business grows, the capability of being able to trace payments is vital in managing your business.

Give your employees the freedom to work on the move and you will see a more engaged, satisfied workforce.

Build your dream team

As your business grows, so will your number of employees. New areas of business demand new positions – and it is who fills these positions that will help dictate further growth. Experience is a vital consideration, but also look for employees who will embrace your company culture. I always try to surround myself with people who are better than me to create a highest possible performing team.

It’s important to bring different skills to the table; a mix of skills and talents means you have a wider pool of experience to dip in to when needed. As a business grows you will be tempted to stick to what you know best and what has worked for you in the past. However, expansion brings its own problems and you’ll need different talents from different people to best manage any hiccups or obstacles in your path.

Small business owners are used to managing individuals and working with employees on a one-on-one basis. However, as workforce numbers increase this will become ever more difficult as your time and resources are stretched. Employing people you can trust to manage others, whether it’s based on their previous experience or skill set, means that you can ensure processes are being followed and appropriately challenged as you grow, all whilst your own time is freed up.

Relinquishing individual management can be hard for business owners, but you have to let go if you want to grow.

Believe in your business and keep your goals in sight

It is a sign of success that your business is growing – so identify what is causing this growth. Too often a company will enjoy increased revenue at the cost of what was causing its success in the first place. Most aspects of your business will change as it grows; its technology, its product and its service. Despite all of this if you keep your original goals in mind, growth will continue alongside other disruptions.

Most importantly you need to remain motivated. Every business has highs and lows but if you’re on to something special then don’t let it go. Empower and excite your management team and make sure your energy is felt by the entire company. In the words of Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM ‘To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.’

Further reading on business growth

Jesper Frederiksen

Jesper Frederiksen

Jesper Frederiksen managing director of EMEA at DocuSign.

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