Any good business plan anticipates change and growth. But what do you do after you've reached those goals and benchmarks you set for yourself? Even the best-designed systems and processes are subject to a range of variables that will make them less effective or even counterproductive though the life of your business. When is it time to change what you do and how you do it?
These are a few indications that your business can use an upgrade.
1. The business has grown beyond expectations or experience.
You are no longer the plucky startup but established in the field. In fact, you're a contender. Are you still managing like you’re working in the studio loft? Conversely, you lead a young department in a large corporate structure. Your unparalleled success has you and your team noticed by upper management. Now you’re getting more work and responsibility than you can handle. You’ve met your initial goals and expectations. Simply put, growth is ready for you. Are you ready for it?
This is a great time for reflection. Take a careful inventory of where you've been, where you are, and where you’re headed. You’re never going to have a better time for course correction and setting the future trajectory of the company or your career. Do you want to remain small and work for a more elite clientele? Or do you want to take on the entire business world? Are you staying local or looking at the big prize of international outreach? Or is it time for your business to cash out?
Growing too quickly has challenges that even the most diligent and motivated entrepreneur may not be ready to face. Now is the time to create the values, strategy, and philosophy that are going to lead you, your employees, and your company to the next chapter.
2. Your workforce is older and more experienced.
You’ve trained a cadre of loyal, hardworking associates or employees, and your current team is a collection of individual experts who work well without supervision. How can you reward them and retain the experience you’ve invested so much time and resources in maturing? It might be time to see how they can lead and how they can grow a junior staff.
It's time to find out what their goals are, to determine if the next step in the ladder of success is as ready for them as it is for you. It could also be an opportunity to look for new ideas and new employees, people to report directly to the more experienced staff.
The downside, of course, is that this puts you a step away from the ground level of operations. But if growth is one of your goals, this is expected and necessary. You’re also giving the people you’ve worked with the chance to manage. If that hasn’t been a goal yet, it certainly should be.
This is also a good time to ask difficult questions. Has your leadership been a component in the growth of your employees? Are the people under your direct supervision looking to you with respect...or fear? Have you instilled any of your best qualities in your people? Have you been the kind of manager you wanted to be? Building trust and encouraging your people to trust one another can make your new course correction a great moment in their lives.
Being generous with opportunity has its own rewards. Upper management is probably looking for someone who can grow to the executive level. And the people who have worked under your supervision can provide an excellent example that you’re that person to encourage progress. Great leaders don’t just build loyal staff; they build future leaders in the process.
3. You need to keep current with technology and compatibility.
You’ve just learned that the project management software or CRM you've been using is losing support. While the rest of the company has grown and made improvements, you're still using computers and processes that are working piecemeal with the newer systems in order to work at all.
This is a problem whose solution usually involves money: There are organizations and individuals lining up to sell you something bigger, better, faster, and perfectly compatible. Now is the time to look at the numbers. If you have a clear trajectory of what’s ahead—greater volume, enhanced productivity, a change in focus from one product to another—the old software or older processes may now be subject to a radical change. Is your current stack of software customizable enough to grow with you?
Poll the staff who have managed the old system, and get their opinions. With their input, the transition will move more smoothly. Ask them questions about the flaws the older model had, and find out what they need to work quickly and more efficiently. The outlook of experience will be very important when you’re getting a buy-in from the people who are letting go of the old and learning how to make the new work most effectively.
A smart leader knows when it's time to make the big changes. A skilled change leader can make them painless, exciting and even invigorating.