During the early stages, a business focuses on two primary elements: generating revenues and making a profit. As the business matures and grows, it finds that doing things the same old way will no longer work. It needs to go through a stage of “professionalizing” – implementing practices that will allow it to scale up efficiently. There are four primary elements to “professionalizing:”
People: As a business grows, the people who got you there aren’t necessarily the ones who will allow you to continue to grow; at least not in the same roles. This holds true from the founder/CEO on down. The founder may be great at building a company, but not so great at growing it. The dynamite salesperson is more than likely not right for the role of sales manager. New roles may also need to be created and filled.
Development of people should be an ongoing process as a business grows. Perform regular assessments to determine people’s strengths, weaknesses and interests. Make training a high priority – it’s much cheaper to train an existing employee than it is to replace them or to hire from the outside. Staff weaknesses will be different for each company, depending on the company industry and culture.
Strategy: Many companies just bumble through on planning when they first grow. That may work when the founder can be involved in all aspects of the business, but that gets harder over time. So it’s time to evolve and plan for the future. Time to figure out where you want to be in the next few years. Time to figure out what is holding you back, and figure out how to get around it.
Process: Initially, you have one person who is an expert in each role. Frequently, that one expert is the owner/founder. As the business grows, that knowledge needs to be disseminated to new employees – through documented processes and procedures. The thing is, many of those processes were great for a small firm but can’t scale well as the firm grows. It’s time to review and reengineer those processes, keeping in mind what technology (i.e. computers & software) can make them more efficient.
Technology: In most cases, technology is supportive of the people, strategy, and processes in the firm. Technology can also be the enabler of scaling up. What may not have been affordable for a 5-person firm, becomes mandatory for a 50 person firm.
The path to “professionalizing” will be different for each firm. Industry demands may require efficiencies in some areas but not others. The owner has his/her own strengths and weaknesses, which created a culture where certain skills are in abundance, and others are lacking.