Monthly Archives March 2011

Mar2011
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Preparing For the Swarm

Have you ever been to a restaurant within days of a newspaper or online source publishing a favorable review? How well did restaurant personnel handle the newfound fame? Did you end up adding to the chorus of plaudits, or were you left wondering whom they paid off to get the supportive publicity?

Defining what level of investment and anticipatory action is appropriate and manageable is a challenge common to all growing businesses. How you handle it can be the difference between a sharply positive growth curve and one that looks, well, lumpy.

So how do you calibrate spending money to prepare for uncertain results? Here is a question-based process to consider:

  • Write down the sequence of activities that results in delivering products or service to clients. Which of those activities are likely to be performed the same way every time, and which require customer- or application-specific execution?
  • How many people in the organization, not including the entrepreneur / leader, are capable of doing each activity? Your answer needs to be greater than one if you want your company to grow!
  • Are your most expensive employees doing the repetitive activity or the custom work? Most of the time, the expensive folk should be creating, selling, or providing some truly specialized capability.
  • Does the repetitive activity have to be done in house, or can you outsource it to someone already specializing in that work? This one can be less clear-cut, but financially, paying as you need it is better than carrying the overhead expense.
  • Can the repetitive activity be automated to minimize the need for more expensive resources? Automation will typically result in lower cost, higher speed, and consistent quality, thus making it a very desirable option.
  • Do you have any resource(s) who spend most of their time selling? Obviously, selling is incredibly important, but asking employees – or yourself – to juggle selling and/or doing and/or managing will inhibit market penetration.
  • When your in-house expert is performing a product / service delivery-based activity, do you have someone you can assign to shadow the expert? Cross-training expands company capacity, addresses the “hit by a bus” risk, and provides employees with the opportunity to grow and become more valuable.
  • When you have shadowing taking place, does the “shadow” document what he or she is learning, to facilitate future training efforts? You’ll want to move away from training as a custom activity, and documenting the work is a great way to ensure consistent future quality.
  • Are you, as the leader, insisting on how the work gets done, or focusing on the required end result? Growing a company means ceding some control over the how of execution, but never abandoning what you really stand for: the quality of the end result.

Restaurant reviews typically aren’t written based on opening night. Your company does have time to prove market viability, but once you are close to debugging your product / service and processes, it’s time to start preparing for growth. Stay ahead of your diners, especially if you want them to come back for seconds.

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