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Don't Grow Too Fast!

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Growth is the goal of every business. If you’re an entrepreneur, you aren’t satisfied with a stagnant level of success, you’re always looking to improve. It’s a major part of the entrepreneurial spirit – business owners are always seeking more.

But growth comes with its own set of challenges, and businesses that aren’t prepared can suffer because of growth.

For a large example, take GoPro. The popular “action camera” was the holiday gift of the year. Stores couldn’t keep inventory on the shelves, and GoPro did everything they could to increase production to meet the demand. Stock prices went through the roof, and the business grew at an exponential rate.

Fast forward just two years and GoPro’s stock is falling just as rapidly as it rose. They didn’t have a great plan for growth and spent much of their time and effort keeping up with staggeringly high demand. Now, investors are worried their product line may not be diverse enough, and the market for “Action cameras” has not only diminished, but more competitors are entering the field. If a plan had been in place to diversify their products and prepare for a dip in sales, they would be continuing to grow rather than taking a step back.

Now, this is of course not a problem most small businesses will face. GoPro is a massive company, one that will survive this dip in sales. So let’s look at another example.

In my childhood hometown, there was an incredibly popular Mexican restaurant. Shortly after opening, lines could be seen on a nightly basis outside the door. Reviews were great, customers were happy, and the food was consistently delicious. Everything was going well.

They were so popular they quickly opened 3 other locations and remodeled the original restaurant. It seemed as if this brand would become a regional juggernaut in the industry. But the new stores presented the owners with more problems than they were equipped to handle.

The second and third stores faced food consistency issues. Bad reviews started popping up online, and the owners had not set up a way of managing complaints and feedback. The local health department downgraded one of the four locations for health violations. Another location’s manager got arrested for hiring undocumented workers. The restaurant that used to be known for quality and consistency was now tied to too many negative thoughts.

The owners were forced to close the other locations one by one. They returned to the original location with the same kitchen staff and initially positive experience, but the damage was done. Their business limped along before shuttering their doors just this year.

I use this example because the owners of this restaurant had something special on their hands. With proper planning and preparation, the scale-up operation could have been successful, and they could have continued to grow.

That’s how growth can be dangerous for your business. If you want to grow, you must prepare for it first. You have to have a plan for keeping your brand intact. If your customers love your personal touch and attention, you have to figure out a way to scale that personal touch to more potential customers. That may require hiring more help before scaling up, to make sure no customer is left behind.

The bottom line here is that you must shift the way you think about growth. Growth without a plan can have devastating consequences for your business. Growth may be a good thing, but planned and controlled growth is a great thing.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443.jpgAlex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

8 How To Use Fifteen Minutes a Day to Create a Culture of Accountability

It’s great to have a plan. Even better to charge out and begin to execute the plan. But, to keep your plan alive day in and day out, you’ve got to have a routine that holds everyone accountable for all things big and small.

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To keep commitment high and reinforce a culture based on your objectives you need to install a systematic approach to meetings that allows people to be heard, get help, pose ideas, participate, learn, grow, move projects forward, and stay connected.

This will include annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily planned sessions designed to accomplish specific tasks.

I can almost hear some collective groaning coming from my readers, but trust me on this. If you do this right, you’ll wonder how you ever succeeded without it. You may find that more gets done in terms of actual work and real team building in a month using this system than at any time in your business.

First off, have everyone in the organization sketch out their near term plans. The projects they need or intend to get done in the 30, 60, and 90 days based on your overall marketing or business plan. This should be an ongoing moving process and will be one of the tools used in your meeting system.

Daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly

Every organization, depending upon the number of employees and other logistics, will have slightly differing needs, but the basic framework should look something like this:

Quarterly meetings – These meetings should be used to give “state of the business updates” that will likely include financial data and reporting on goals and objectives for the year.

One of the ways that many organizations reinforce core values is to choose a quarterly theme that relates to one of your stated core values and plan activities and initiatives that highlight the chosen value. I’ll go into more detail about this specific tactic in a subsequent chapter on culture.

These meetings should be fun and celebrate achievements, milestones and accomplishments that may fall outside the realm of work.

Monthly meetings – These meetings may include financial and milestone reporting, but should also include teaching.

One of my favorite ways to include teaching in the monthly meeting is to select a member of the staff, regardless of department, and charge them with leading a session about their department or function’s specific initiatives, goals and achievements.

This can be a fun way to “get to know accounting” or “showcase the new advertising campaign.”

Weekly functional meetings – It gets a little trickier once you start breaking meetings down to functional teams or departments. This is where organizations with flat structures (everyone reports to one boss) start to choke. If you’re the boss and you manage everyone in the organization, this tactic will reveal why you can’t continue this practice.

The good news is that this process and the project planning process I wrote about recently are how you start to create a management structure in your organization where perhaps none existed previously.

In fact, many organizations find that the sheer act of planning creates its own logical team organization structure based on who can be and is responsible for projects.

The focus of the weekly meeting is project movement. If you have a very small staff this may be a weekly staff meeting, but the focus is still to get updates on projects. If you have a very organization you may logically conduct these in small groups around projects.

Some mid-sized organizations hold weekly all hands meetings in addition to functional staff meetings in an effort to highlight their most important initiatives.

VML, a digital marketing agency located in Kansas City, holds an all staff meeting every Tuesday morning with the primary purpose of highlighting the organization’s community, non-profit and charitable activities. The brief meeting is also frequently used as a way to recognize staff members who exemplified core values during the coarse of the week.

Daily functional huddle

The concept of the daily huddle has been used in large business for years and has had a huge impact on organizations such as Ritz Carlton, Johnson & Johnson and 3M. Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits did a great deal to popularize the notion in small business circles. Harnish contends that this was one of Rockefeller’s core concepts used while building Standard Oil.

While some may view this tactic purely in terms of efficiency I think it’s one of the greatest ways to build team commitment and spirit and once again reinforce purpose.