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Leading your company during continuous growth

Module 2: Stages of growth

During your company’s journey from start-up, to initial growth and rapid growth, you’ve had to figure out the right product-market fit, decide the company’s direction, learn how to hire, lead and manage people, build a leadership team, develop a plan, communicate well, and build processes, procedures, systems and structures to support company growth. That’s a lot of change already. But as your company moves into the continuous growth phase, you need to step out of your comfort zone again and take on a whole new set of leadership roles: strategic innovator, change catalyst, organisation builder, and chief of culture.

Moving from rapid growth to continuous growth

Moving into continuous growth can feel like flying through a storm. The turbulence will continue to increase until you have moved to your new role as leader and have a strong enough executive team to manage the operations of the company.

There are some telling signs that your company is ready to move into continuous growth.

  • The organisation structure doesn’t work anymore. Work is not getting done and you realise you need to re-organise to capitalise on people’s strengths and emerging opportunities.
  • No one seems to have the same urgency about change or preparing for the future as you do.
  • You’re the only one looking at the big picture and the external factors that can impact your business.
  • You’re concerned your executive team won’t be able to run the business without you.

If these signs resonate with you, you must communicate to your team the need to shift to continuous growth, or your company could easily be thrown into turbulence.

What happens in continuous growth?

In the rapid growth phase, your company became a leader in the market. In continuous growth, you’ll need to further penetrate current markets and expand into new ones, broaden your product lines, add new services, and strengthen the company’s brand and market position. You can achieve this by developing strategic alliances, partnerships, exploring mergers or acquisitions, expanding internationally, or looking into an IPO or trade sale. To figure out which of these strategies make sense, you will need to be externally focused – then make significant internal changes to your company’s organisational structure and operations.

How you need to change as a leader

In continuous growth, your executive team needs to be responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the company and provide you with regular reports (preferably via a dashboard with a mutually agreed set of metrics). Delegating these responsibilities opens up your schedule to adopt leadership behaviours that support your continuous growth. To grow as a leader, you need to:

Lead strategic innovation

You are the company’s external eyes, monitoring the environment around you. You’ll need to visit customers, look for new growth opportunities, watch out for challenges and competitors, and track new technologies or disruptors in your market or industry. You’ll need to spend a lot of time outside the company because its survival depends on your ability to anticipate the impact of positive or negative disruptors.

Be a catalyst for change

Your role is to prepare the company for the disruptions you see coming

Your role is to prepare the company for the disruptions you see coming, and continuously lead the company through reinvention. Whether it’s responding to the launch of a highly competitive product, or preparing the company for an acquisition – you need to be the catalyst for change, and then manage it, so your executive team and employees do not slip into reactive- or crisis-mode and throw the company into turbulence.

Set solid business foundations

Understanding how to best organise and structure the company to support the scale, scope and complexity of growth is an integral aspect to continuous growth. This may require new divisions, offices, or even a reorganisation. Your executive team will need to build their teams, be responsible for efficient and effective operations and implement the company’s plan, and the support you initially provide has a direct impact on the success of this change.

Focus on longer-term strategy rather than day-to-day operations

Demonstrate your values

You have a continuing responsibility to communicate the company’s mission, vision, values and plan in ways that influence people’s behaviour and actions on a daily basis. Never let your company values become a case of “do what I say, not what I do”. You also need to clarify the consequences of not behaving according to company values.

 

In start-up you focused on day-to-day operations. In initial growth you began delegating parts of your job and setting the direction. In rapid growth your major task was to hire an executive team, develop a plan, communicate and execute. In continuous growth your responsibility is to focus on longer-term strategy rather than day-to-day operations. You need to look ahead and decide which externalities are likely to impact your company. Then figure out how to prepare your company to deal with the impacts of these changes in order to build an organisation that can achieve continuing success.

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