Work Smarter, Not Harder

When organizations reach a stage of high growth, they often have difficulty keeping pace with rapidly evolving business needs.  As such, there are challenges that are to be anticipated – and which are generally overcome in time.  These issues occur as business development, cash flow, and immediate obligations to both shareholders and staff take precedence, and companies don’t have adequate opportunity to further develop their own people, processes, and systems.  But because the commitment to clients must ultimately weather changing conditions, preparing to scale the company cannot take a back seat forever.

As volume increases, there are generally a few areas where strain becomes apparent.  The first is with staff – everyone feels overworked.  People are doing their jobs, plus a few things they weren’t doing last quarter, and open roles are unfilled, in many cases because no one has the time to devote to recruiting and hiring.  Administrative management becomes unduly burdensome and time consuming.  Customer service and product support often suffer too, as emphasis is placed on new business while ongoing maintenance and improvement lack already scarce resources.  Both staff paucity and flagging product and customer support are oftentimes exacerbated by systemic issues – that is, the processes and systems have not kept pace with growth and expectation.  Such system inefficiency means people are on spreadsheets when they should be on dynamic and inexpensive SaaS tools in the cloud that bolster productivity and communication.  It means people are shuffling paper copies, filling out too many forms, performing redundant data processing, and no one is really sure why… it’s simply the way they’ve always been doing it and no one has had time to stop and reassess the value of the task.  It means that staff sit in status meeting after status meeting, but lack the time to act on the takeaways from these sessions.

These are common problems in most every industry, but not unsolvable ones.  It generally takes some careful listening to the employees about where their bottlenecks are, how most of their time is spent, and a fresh pair of eyes on the quote-to-cash continuum to understand what’s working and what isn’t.  It takes thoughtful process re-engineering and business analysis to understand how evolving requirements and changes will impact the operations model.  It takes an understanding of when application development makes sense versus sourcing ready-built platforms.  The information technology tools to help businesses work smarter (not harder) and the process improvement and efficiencies that streamline low value-add tasks are out there, but must be applied thoughtfully and with a pragmatic eye to priority.

In assessing an organization’s readiness for change, including its risks, challenges, and strengths, executive teams and management consulting firms should take a methodical approach to process planning and systems implementation, engaging both internal resources and external business advisory services to plan for growth and transition, and use a consistent and predictable process to determine the best path forward.

Mr. Meek is a senior advisor to businesses in growth and transition stages, leveraging his extensive understanding and record of operational improvements for efficiency-minded management teams. He has served as an executive in both large and small cap organizations across multiple industries, including telecommunications, manufacturing, retail, airlines, associations, and healthcare. His experience includes building new business units, process engineering, operations management, funding, asset sales, and acquisitions.

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