No matter where you are in what I call the Business Storm Cycle, as a leader you’ve got to lead—even when the way ahead looks foggy. But even experienced leaders can be blindsided by what comes at them in the cycle—and can make mistakes that will make the phase they’re in that much rougher or even prove fatal to their business.
If you’re hip-deep in the hypergrowth phase I call the Tornado, your company’s expansion is outstripping your ability to keep up with it. Sales are skyrocketing—but you can’t keep up with demand. Orders are piling up, but the back office can’t get them processed fast enough. Everyone’s working as hard as they can—yet despite their best efforts, they’re falling behind. What do you do? For starts, try not to shoot yourself in the foot by doing any of the following things:
- “Just hire more people—and fast!” When everyone’s working as hard as they can to keep up—and failing—it’s tempting to just bring in new people as fast as you can to plug the leaks in your workflow. But hiring willy-nilly swells your payroll, shrinks your margins, and dilutes your culture.
- “We don’t have time to train hires—let them learn on the job.” Who are they learning from, and what? If you’ve been throwing “magic bullets” or quick fixes at your IT system, does anyone really understand what the processes are anymore?
- “Drop everything and straighten out this outage/billing problem/production challenge”. When we’re in a Tornado, every challenge takes on extra urgency, and we’re tempted to throw everything we have at it, until it’s solved. But allocating all of our resources to the urgent means we’re ignoring the important—and strategic. Only assign those needed and keep everyone else working on the important.
It’s ironic; demand for your product is through the roof, but even though it’s probably what you dreamed of in your start-up phase, the reality is overwhelming. Yes, the Tornado will pass—but if your business can get through it and the next parts of the cycle, the Tornado will come again. There’s no escaping the Business Storm Cycle—but we can learn to manage our companies through its phases to minimize the damage and maximize the profits.
What goes up will come down; but you can minimize the damage and maximize your profits if you keep your head and keep the three legs of your business triangle—people, processes, and IT—in balance as best you can during your Tornado.