“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”Benjamin Franklin
Often the very attributes necessary to spur and guide the successful growth of a business contain within them the seeds of its ultimate discontent. If a business wants to sustain its growth, it needs to make sure that its leaders and supervisors are well trained.
Many businesses begin as a craft organization around the founder’s kitchen table. Everyone is equally invested in the activities, most of them perform similar functions, and they enjoy daily access and communication. When tasks need to be completed, whoever is available assumes responsibility. There is no need for supervisors at this stage.
People connect and check in with each other on a continual basis. The craft organization relies on specific members to play to their strengths and to build additional knowledge and skills when necessary through whatever means possible. If training occurs, it is very informal.
The founder or founders of the business are eager to instill their own level of interest and commitment in their new staff members. Decisions that need to be made are discussed with everyone involved in the business. To a great extent, the craft organization is a real team effort with direct and informal relationships and connections between all of its members.
If the business is going to grow, it moves into a promotional stage. Someone has to get the word out to prospective customers. As the figurehead of the company, the leader (and founder) starts to be very much involved in public relations and marketing activities. Decisions need to be made quickly to take advantage of market opportunities. This means that the leader may be gone for periods of time, and this creates a new challenge to internal business communications.
It is an exciting and intense time of considerable and fast moving growth. In order to support this growth, team members need to focus on their own levels of expertise instead of performing a range of tasks. There is no time for staff to learn new skills. To meet immediate needs, new staff may be hired to plug in essential gaps in the team’s capabilities. The addition of these team members creates a different dynamic, as what was once a close-knit family has to welcome individuals who lack the same history and involvement in the start up of the business.
These are not the only changes. The leader may start to communicate directly with only one or two other team members because of lack of time and the need to expedite decisions. This can cause the other original members of the team to become dissatisfied as their access to the leader and their involvement in decision-making becomes more limited.
They may also begin to feel less connected to other team members as their work responsibilities become more specialized in order to respond to specific market needs. Their lack of access to the leader, lack of time, increased workload, and increased fragmentation can begin to take their toll.
At this point, the leader requires the knowledge and skills to bridge this communication gap, coordinate the different parts of the business, manage the workload, and build staff morale- in short, to lead the growing business. A wise leader will recognize the importance of learning how to run a business and seek out the relevant training when the business is still at the craft stage, in anticipation of future growth.
As the business services and staff expand, and the attention of the leader is directed externally, there is a need for further internal departmentalization and the establishment of supervisory levels. A management hierarchy evolves.
This can be a very difficult transition, particularly if, as is very typical, the business fills the supervisory positions with the most experienced staff. These technically competent individuals frequently lack the necessary skills to effectively supervise other staff. They also may not understand that, as supervisors, they are expected to be leaders rather than hands on performers.
Coordination and communication become more complex and difficult as the workforce grows and compartmentalizes in specialty areas. There is too many staff to sit at one table as they used to do when the business was at the craft stage. By this time, the organization has grown into the administrative stage, where policies and procedures need to be written and formalized to ensure consistency throughout the business.
Many businesses start to falter and fail at this point, particularly if the leader and the supervisors are not sufficiently trained so that they can competently perform all of their duties.
Supervisors need the knowledge and skills to be able to: plan, create schedules, delegate work, communicate with different personalities, orient and train employees, manage and evaluate employee performance, provide constructive coaching feedback, maintain a motivated workforce, manage conflict, develop teams, handle discipline, and use good time management to meet project and production deadlines.
While a business is at the promotional stage, it needs to anticipate the next stage and provide training to the team members who will eventually become supervisors. Giving them training after they have assumed those supervisory roles is often too late.
When supervisors are in over their heads and unsure what to do, they can make critical mistakes that affect production, service and staff. When leaders are in over their heads, they can make critical mistakes that affect the growth and even the very continuation of the business.
A business that plans on growing will increase its probability of sustained success if it makes sure that its leader and supervisors have the training that will enable them to fulfill their respective leadership and supervisory responsibilities. The sooner they receive this training, the better it will be for them, for the employees and for the business itself.
May your learning be sweet.