There’s a great expression I heard a few years ago which was ‘don’t engineer for smallness’. In other words: think big!
Ask yourself why you’ve gone into business and what you’re trying to achieve. Some people choose to create life-style businesses and deliberately keep it small, which is fine in the short term but will eventually create frustration – especially if it is heavily dependent on your personal labour and continual presence.
Think about scale and structure
There is no doubt that the early years tend to be a period of graft and pure survival but you can only live on adrenalin for so long. At some point you have to think about scale and structure in order to build something that can really challenge your competitors or take your new idea to the broader marketplace.
Importantly, it must be self-sustaining. Key areas to address, depending on your business, typically involve looking at capacity and bandwidth across technology, financial management, recruitment, learning and development, logistics and inventory management.
Prepare for the future
A number of years ago at Talent we decided to prepare for significant growth. I hired a CFO who was way too big for our size at the time. I asked him to build me a back-office operations and finance structure that would be able to handle $500 million of revenue – or in other words a company 15 times bigger than what we were at the time.
Whilst this appeared ‘gold plated’, I was confident that we had the right game plan and that we would grow into it. We certainly achieved that in great style, ensuring that the rapid growth we experienced was relatively pain-free, especially around the areas of financial management and cash flow.
Bring in the best people you can
This leads me to my second point: hire big! When you have survived the near death experiences of the first couple of years, and the way ahead now looks clear and belief is strong, make sure you bring in the best people you can to execute the strategy. You cannot accomplish this on your own, so bring in experts and great leaders in their field.
This will typically involve approaching people who are not looking for a new role or appear unobtainable. If your vision is compelling and believable you might be surprised at who will decide to follow you.
Having started Talent in Perth, and achieved early success, I was keen to move to Sydney to expand the business on a national basis. However, I needed someone exceptional to not only hold what we had but continue the good work. There was only one individual who I felt was capable of doing this and he appeared unobtainable in every respect both professionally and financially.
Many months of relentless pursuit, and the decision to break the bank with a salary I couldn’t really afford, eventually I landed this key person. As a result, I was released to go to Sydney to start building the business we have today.
Interestingly, the guy I hired had grown the Perth branch by 500% by the time he left and in the process contributed significant profits and had created a great succession plan so, in hindsight, it really was a smart decision.
– Richard Earl
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