Be careful what you wish for.
Often when we set our sights on a goal, we are ill-prepared for what the achievement will mean for us.
In business, we often set aggressive revenue targets. We chase a certain dollar amount ($1 million, $5 million, $10 million) or we chase a percentage increase. (25% revenue growth, 50% profitability growth).
Sometimes we chase market growth, with plans to enter additional markets or industries.
And while we may master the skill of identifying and executing what we need to do to achieve our goal, we’re in uncharted territory without a map when we hit our target.
I’ve learned a lot over the past several years about the other significant changes that growth requires and brings beyond the bottom line.
When we think of growth, we really only think about a growing dollar amount. But here are just a few of the other elements that will (not “may,” but “will”) require a shift or change as you transition from one growth stage to the next:
Your personal role
As your company grows from perhaps a solopreneur structure to a company with contractors or employees, your role will shift from practitioner, to manager, to leader, and perhaps ultimately to adviser. It’s unavoidable.
You can’t stay in the trenches when you need to be at the 50,000 foot level to set your strategy and growth path.
For a variety of reasons, employees that help you reach one growth stage may not be the employees you need to reach another growth stage. Of course each employee is different, and sometimes a long-time employee does evolve and grow with the company – in their original role or a different role.
But often, as a company grows up, it will require new experiences, ideas, and leadership.
Your advisers should be people who have already achieved what you want to achieve. They shouldn’t be people who are at the same place where you are. Your advisers ideally should have experience with the challenges you will inevitably face. As you travel your path and reach your milestones, it’s important to re-evaluate those people who are guiding you.
As you grow, you will outgrow some of your customers. Customers that were ideally suited your company 5 years ago and seemed like the right size may seem too small or not strategic enough as you continue along your path of growth.
Your marketing strategy
As you shift your customer base, and continue to move in a more strategic direction, your message and outreach strategy will shift as well.
Your business development strategy
The opportunities you pursue will shift dramatically. You will need to close larger contracts to keep pace with your growth.
When you have a target of $1 million, a $100,000 contract is significant. When you have a target of $15 million, a $100,00 contract may not be worth the investment of your time, or allocation of your resources.
In the government contracting space, government contractors just starting out should start small – as a sub-contractor, or as a prime on very small, single contracts. Eventually, they can grow their infrastructure to support the pursuit and the win of programs (chasing contracts can be very, very expensive).
Ultimately, they will be able to pursue government-wide or agency-wide programs contracts that span 5 years or 10 years. But all of these strategies must happen incrementally, or the company can go under.
Unmanaged growth is one of the biggest threats to a growing business.
Your IT infrastructure
As you grow, your IT infrastructure will need to keep pace with your growth. Not only in terms of bandwidth, but in terms of hardware, software, applications, mobile connectivity, and security.
Your financial infrastructure
Growing companies have increasingly complex finance and accounting requirements. Your system requirements and your personnel requirements in this space will continue to evolve.
For example, government contracting firms over $5 million are subjected to many audits, which places an additional burden on the financial infrastructures.
Your recruiting strategy and HR infrastructure
As an organization grows, they must invest in their recruitment strategy, as well as their HR infrastructure to ensure legal compliance, and also to provide competitive benefits packages.
This is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. As a company moves from the entrepreneurial start-up phase to a more mature phase, the culture can’t help but shift.
The organization has to stop revolving around a core group of people and must shift to being process-centric.
Hero mentalities in which the company survives on the backs of a small group of employees is dangerous and unhealthy. Processes alleviate the burden of dependency, enable the company to function like a well-oiled machine, and strongly position the company for growth.
More from Women Grow Business:
- Mayra Ruiz asks, “Were you born to be an entrepreneur?”
- Patrica Frame tells a tale of business infrastructure
Image: Jason Samfield, Creative Commons
Regular contributor Marissa Levin is Founder and CEO of Information Experts. Marissa was named a 2008 BRAVO Award winner, and a Smart100 CEO for both 2009 and 2010, by SmartCEO Magazine (which honors the region’s 25 most influential women CEOs); recently she was listed in Washington’s 100 Technology Titans by Washingtonian Magazine. She is also the DC Women’s Entrepreneurship Examiner. Describing her true passion as “helping other business owners be successful with their own business growth,” Marissa can be reached through her website or Twitter.