Growth Strategies: Separation is in the Preparation


By Maria Geokezas, VP of Client Services at Heinz Marketing

When growth-phase organizations feel the pain of keeping up, their first instinct is to throw more people at the problem.  More people means more things get done faster.  Right?  Not always.  More people could mean more chaos, lower efficiency, less productivity and slower results if you don’t have a solid plan in place that addresses the growth.

For marketing and sales executives who are largely responsible for making that growth happen, it can be overwhelming.  You are probably already struggling to meet demand with the budget and resources you have, and can’t fathom what will happen when more fuel is thrown on the fire.

This is where careful preparation separates successful growth strategies from those that fall flat and leave the team and organization worse off than when it began.  As a leader of the organization, it’s important to take the time to make a plan for growth.  It doesn’t have to be a big drawn out process or turn into a fancy PowerPoint presentation.  Just the mere act of sitting down and concentrating on this one thing will benefit you and the organization immensely.

The plan should start with where you are today – current average monthly sales/revenue as well as current headcount, employee-related costs (like salaries and benefits) and non-employee-related costs (like overhead, COGS, etc).  Layer in any gaps you see at the current resource level.  And take the time to conduct a thorough assessment of where you and your team are most effective and where you are not.

Uncovering Growth Gaps

It can be difficult identifying gaps – especially when you are in a service-oriented business that relies on human capital as its COGS.  Still, an analysis of some key areas will help you to identify and size any gaps:

  • Deadlines: How effective are you/your team in meeting deadlines?  When deadlines are missed, are they proactively managed, or does it come as a surprise?  Are the same types of deadlines being missed consistently?  What do missed deadlines cost the organization?
  • Capabilities: What types of projects/tasks take the most time?  What is the level of quality of work?  What is your team most effective at?  Who on the team has particular expertise or deficiencies?  How does work flow through the organization?  Where are their misses?  What kinds of actions or tasks cause delays or are impacted the most by delays?
  • Culture: Does the organization have a set of defined company values?  Are all levels and functions of the organization aware and knowledgeable about the values and how they are manifest in the way work is done and how clients, partners, colleagues are treated?  Do the leaders of the organization live the values?

Planning for Growth

Once you have an understanding of these areas, it’s easier to develop a plan that can actually support your organization’s growth goals.  Your growth plan should address two key areas.

  1. Organizational Structure and Processes
  • Develop a new organizational chart. Leave off names of individuals and instead, focus on the roles you need.  Don’t worry about who is playing each role yet.  Instead focus on the functions needed and define the skill set required for each role to be successful in the new organization.  Be certain to consider both technical expertise needed for each role as well as the non-technical. This will come in handy when evaluating staffing levels and people.
  • Define the different types of workflows needed to ensure your team’s efforts are productive and deadlines are met consistently. Your workflows will differ depending on what type of output you produce.  But if you think about these flows as either supporting ongoing internal operations or developing/launching new efforts externally, it may help to identify different processes and unique steps or gates that provide more guidance to your team.
  • Ensure you have accurate and current job descriptions that reflect the roles and skill set required by the new organizational structure.
  • Identify opportunities to automate that make the people on the team more effective.
  • Now it’s time to map each of these defined workflows into the new organizational hierarchy and determine which functional roles need to be involved at each stage of each workflow.
  1. Roles and People
  • Evaluate the expertise and skill set of each person on your team. Take an inventory of your personnel’s strengths and weaknesses then compare these against requirements of the new organizational structure and updated job descriptions to identify where there may be gaps.  Figure out the roles existing employees will fill.  And then identify the types of roles you need to fill with new employees.
  • Hire people based on your company’s values. Obviously, they need to have the basic skills and experience to actually do the job effectively, but if you share the same values, the ramp up time will be faster and the integration with the team and the new organizational structure will seam effortless.
  • These types of changes can be stressful for many people.  Talk to your people honestly about what changes you are considering prior to making them.  If you bring your team along, share your vision and demonstrate that they have an important place in the new organization, you start building the buy-in that makes any transition easier.

When facing any kind of change, especially when it comes to increased goals, go in with your eyes wide open.  The same organization structure, processes and people (no matter how fantastic they are) won’t be effective, if you don’t take some time to prepare.  Separation is in the preparation.