It’s the People, Stupid

“Money and processes are easy to manage compared to the dynamic impact that people bring to the table.” Laurie Taylor, co-founder of the Origin Institute and President of FlashPoint!

If you could run a profitable, successful company without employees, life would be a breeze. No squabbling, no talent wars, no morale to worry about, none of those pesky mistakes people can’t seem to help making. You run a business; if you expected it to be easy, you may want to find another line of work. The reality is you need people, challenges, and all. You can’t grow without them. More effective processes, though, can help overcome those challenges and achieve more sustainable growth.

Recognize Your Stage of Growth

In the Stages of Growth model, there are three “Gates of Focus”: People, processes, and profit. It’s interesting to note that, of the 27 challenges that growth businesses face, 23 are people-related. At the same time, companies in stage 1 need to focus on profit. The reason is simple: you need money to hire people.

This is where you may find yourself in a catch-22. You don’t have enough money to make money. Maybe you don’t have enough projects to bring the money in to hire new people. And you don’t have the people who can help you build out new projects or services to make money.

Most small businesses are under-capitalized. If this is where you find yourself, work with a CFO. (“But I can’t afford a CFO!”) You can hire one on a consulting or part-time basis to help you improve your cash flow situation and prepare your organization for hiring new employees.

Get Growing

If you’re at the stage of growth in which you need new employees, and can afford them, make sure you hire smart. Here are three critical steps:

  • Put a Hiring Process in Place.
    You need some sort of process, or framework, to identify, interview, and hire the right people. At the very least, create accurate job descriptions so you know exactly what you’re looking for when you select applicants. If you can go a step beyond that, benchmark key jobs or those that will have more than one person to fill them. This allows you to lay out your expectations in a clear, concise way – and you can use it later as a coaching or performance review tool.
  • Implement an Applicant Tracking System.
    If you identify a candidate who you believe will be a good match, keep track of them! Don’t let them get lost in the system or passed over because you can’t share information with your HR function, your department heads, or your managers. A central repository allows everyone involved in the decision to access candidate materials and provide feedback.
  • Find a Good #2
    As your company grows, your role will evolve from hands-on manager to a delegator. A strong COO or VP of Operations can help with that transition, taking charge of the people process. But finding that person isn’t enough. You have to have a process in place before they assume the role so they can hit the ground running. You can’t just plug-and-play. Take the time to implement a system that onboards your #2 efficiently and effectively and allows them to pick up the people process immediately.

You can’t take your company to the next level, the next stage of growth, without people. But you’re not doing yourself any favors if you go too fast or start hiring people without at least some type of system in place. Slow down, get it together, and start making conscious choices that will help your company grow.