For my whole adult life, I’ve worked with and for organizations in really fast growth. Does this make me an expert at understanding growth? Certainly not! I have constant questions about how best to serve these unique communities of interesting people, and how to apply lessons from the many ‘movies’ I’ve seen that are similar to theirs. Every situation is unique.
Having said that, there are some tidbits I’ve picked up along the way. Here are a few:
- Every organization in growth thinks they’re in some level of chaos: While they win awards and look great from the outside, inside there are people wondering how it can possibly continue given the level of disorganization on the inside. I can never forget the remarks of the CEO of one of the fastest-growing franchise groups in North America when asked privately about their amazing success: “This company is a *@#$% mess.”
- A great hire trumps everything else: Better than a great strategy, a war chest of cash, amazing marketing, an unbeatable product. The right person makes all the difference in the world.
- Communication is always their biggest issue: “What’s going on around here? Why would management make such a stupid decision? What’s my future? Why is my office being moved? Who okayed shipment of that order? Where is this company going?” And on and on and on and on and on. Getting everyone singing off the same song sheet must always be a major thrust.
- You can learn a lot from ‘uneducated’ people: The companies that win in the end have people at the center who choose to smile and persevere rather than succumb to defeat. I spent my formative years working on a farm for two guys without any formal education. They could improvise, fix anything, invent stuff when it was too expensive or impossible to buy, make do, and figure it out. There was never a time when we discussed not being able to make something work. Those sorts of thoughts didn’t occur to them. In other words, they could run circles around lots of corporate types. Some people hit obstacles, their tummy hurts and they go home. Others gut it out and play for the win. That isn’t about your level of education, but the content of your character.
- Don’t assume people are engaged: According to Gallop research, employee engagement can be broken down like this:
Values and culture must lead the charge to help this stat improve.
6. Small beats big: When you no longer know everyone’s name who works onsite, you have a challenge to overcome. Be big and feel small
Rushing down a blind alley to find it’s a dead-end? Making a devastatingly horrid hire that discourages everyone? Sweating payroll? Feeling occasionally discombobulated? All normal in fast growth organizations.
Pick your poison. In mature, established places, everything has been thought out. There is no creativity. There isn’t a lot of fun to it. Or opportunity. Not much changes. If you want to work somewhere that’s dynamic, exciting and filled with opportunity, there’s nowhere better than a fast-growth organization. It’s the only place I want to be.