This article is the first in a three-part series on how to overcome a period of stagnation or “plateau” that businesses often hit somewhere between 20 and 50 employees. 

Starting a business designed to grow beyond a couple of employees requires a tremendous amount of work – work that many owners are happy to do in exchange for the freedom to pursue their own path.  The reward of all of this work is a growing business, and the opportunity to hire employees to help you continue pursuing your own path.

It’s right around here that things go sideways.  What was a one-person business turns into a twenty person company.  You get consumed with the minutiae of business operations – HR, insurance, and cash flow – while the people you’ve hired are doing the stuff you love to do.  Everyone else is making the decisions, and they aren’t making the decisions you would make.  By the time a decision does come to you, it’s because something is on fire and there are no good decisions to make.  Things start falling apart, and it seems like there’s no way to get ahead of the curve.

Process Puts You in Control

When it was just you, you made all the decisions.  As the company grew to a handful of employees, you could still rely on the employees in your tight-knit company to know what issues to bring to you.  But now, the company has reached the point where there’s not enough of you to go around.  New employees don’t know what issues to bubble up, and they know you’re too busy to handle their problems, so they do the best they can in deciding for you.

The worst part is that people who perform the same functions aren’t even making the same decisions when facing identical issues.  This means that customers, vendors, and employees are all getting a different experience each time they interact with your company.

How do you take the reins again?  Process!

You can’t be there to make every decision.  But you can build processes ahead of time that anticipate most of them, and dictate a specific, well-considered response.  And unlike those first years in business, you have a team of knowledgeable managers to help ensure that the decisions prescribed by your process are the best ones possible – and to make sure those decisions are implemented time and time again.

When enforced, process helps to ensure that the same good decision-making that helped grow your company in its infancy will continue to support it going forward.  Process provides a consistent experience whenever a customer interacts with your company.  When employees face decisions that could have a long-lasting impact on your company, process execution brings that issue to your desk for a decision.  Most importantly, process allows you to do what you’ve so desperately wanted to do for years – make a copy of yourself.   Every employee following a process you’ve implemented is an employee that’s making the same decisions you would make.

Process Gets Your Company Beyond the Plateau

Shifting to a process-driven model isn’t easy.  It requires extra work on everyone’s part – they’ve got to put out today’s fires at the same time they plan on preventing them in the future.  And as time-consuming as it can be to build a process that anticipates most scenarios, it’s still easy compared to building a culture of process execution.  Transitioning to a process-oriented workplace can take years.

Once you get there, however, the change will be dramatic.  Instead of correcting the same bad decisions over and over again, you can change a process once.   Eventually, the time you previously spent putting out fires will give way to longer-term strategic planning.  Once you’re here, you’ll be well on your way to digging out of the quicksand that’s holding your company in a growth plateau.

Further Reading on Process and the Importance of Symmetry: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business

To learn how WingSwept can help your company improve its processes through better use of technology, call us at 919-779-0954 or email us at