“A big business starts small.” Richard Branson
Many businesses begin as a craft organization around the founder’s kitchen table. Everyone is equally invested in the activities, perform similar functions, and 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. If training occurs, it is very informal.
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 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, which 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 focus on their own areas 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 business.
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.
In Part Two, we’ll look at the third and final stage of business growth.
May your learning be sweet- and safe.
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