Five tips for managing a fast-growing business

Sarah Dowzell, Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at cloud-based HR software business, Natural HR, gives her advice on managing a fast-growing organisation.

Natural HR has gone from being Sarah and her husband, Jason, to 24 employees in just three years. In 2019 alone, they have already secured £250,000 of investment, employed 9 people and moved to bigger offices.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

It seems obvious but it can so easily get forgotten in the busy excitement of a fast-expanding business. When changes are occurring – sometimes daily – it is so important to keep your existing team in the loop. The existing team at Natural HR have been an invaluable asset to us in the past few years and many have taken on broad job descriptions to enable us to deliver with what was a relatively small team to start with.

As we grow, the organisational structure is constantly evolving, which for some means their roles will change and narrow. Making sure all are aware of why the organisational structure has to evolve and what that means for them and their day to day is essential.

Share the Vision

We’ve recently moved offices. For growing organisations, an office move looks to be necessary because there’s physically not enough space for the team and any planned hires to sit and work but it can also be more than that.

For us, it’s not just more desk space, we’ll also be going from one meeting room to much more space and meeting options. This will give us greater opportunity for collaboration, knowledge transfer and training. This is an important part of our strategy for the coming few years, so ensuring the team know that vision will help them understand big decisions, like office moves.

The move also signalled a major shift in how we operate as a business. We have the space and environment to be proud of and to accommodate customers coming to visit and meet the team delivering the service. This again, is key to our vision for the business and those within it deserve to know that and know the direction we are taking.

Hire Well, Induct Better

People are key to any business. We’ve taken on nine people just in 2019 alone, with a further two roles to fill. We’ve mostly managed not to ‘panic hire’. I can see how people let this happen: you see an immediate need emerging in the business and you hire the first person who seems tor remotely fit the role.

However, their fit with the organisation, approach and values is so important and forgetting to take these into consideration will probably mean going through the hiring prices all over again a few weeks or months down the line. However, it is not just the hiring process you need to focus on when you are rapidly expanding.

We have continued to reflect on our induction process, seeking feedback from employees, and now feel totally confident that even in the busiest periods there will be a thorough and helpful induction process for all new starters. It’s a great time to ensure they know the basics, like who everyone is and have been properly introduced but also what the business does, the mission and values so you can be sure they’re taking that message with them – whatever their role.

Continue to Innovate

When a business is booming, it is easy to get stuck ‘doing’ jobs that service clients and keep money coming in. This is important. However, ensure someone in the organisation has their eye firmly on growing customer demands, trends and the future of your sector. You’re booming now because you struck a market at the right time; to continue booming you’ll need to continue to have that outlook.

It feels risky, because to give time to innovate, you’re likely to have to let go a little from the day to day servicing and doing – but it can be worth it. Knowing when to do this is key. We spent a solid few years doing and ensuring the business worked.

Now Jason and I have been focussing on an entirely new function for the software (payroll capability), which has been thanks in part to the investment we received this year. The investment made it possible for us to find resource and time to do this but we’re confident that innovation will make our offering stand out.

Delegate

This is definitely the one I’d struggled with most. I think a lot of business owners have the ‘I’ll just do it’ attitude, which may be born out of not believing anyone else will do it as well as you or that it’ll just be quicker.

Here are two truths I have discovered:

1) other people (particularly who have that specific skill set) will probably do it better than you (and that’s okay!) and

2) whilst it might be quicker for that one little task, when you add up all the little tasks you’ll have wasted valuable time and should’ve just written the job description and hired someone or trained up a member of your team.

I am 100% at this point of realisation now, particularly for my own admin tasks and even though I’d have laughed at the thought of it a year or two ago, I am now advertising for a Personal Assistant. I’m pretty confident it’ll be the best hire I make.

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