Too Much, Too Fast: The Danger of Uncontrolled Growth

Think you have nowhere to go but up? Your company is booming; sales are pouring in, customers return, new prospects buy in, and you’re hiring like crazy to keep up with the demand. Without strong processes in place, though, there are plenty of directions your business can go. A chaotic environment and frenzied hiring is a great way to prove that up is certainly not the only option.

Destabilized by Chaos

The old business adage holds that you should “hire slow, fire fast.” There’s a reason; though I wouldn’t say “slow” is optimal either. How about “streamlined”? For one, how closely are you looking at quality? Is the emphasis on quantity instead? Not sure? You’ll find out soon enough. Another problem, though, is that you’re just going to confuse people. 
Let’s say there are two employees who have intersecting responsibilities. They’re either duplicating each other’s work, or they’re leaving gaping holes because each thought it was the other’s job. “What? That’s my job?” isn’t really what you want to hear from your people. The right hand doesn’t know what the left’s doing.

You need to stop. Put job descriptions in place. Why so many companies balk at the idea of implementing (proven!) processes is beyond me. “It’s big company stuff.” You know what? Someday, you might want to become a big company. Why not start building a foundation so if and when you are, you have a much better shot at success?
If you don’t, your employees are going to become frustrated and walk out the door. People are willing to go with a “figure it out as you go” approach when a company is in its early days. Once you embark on a growth path, they’re going to expect you’ve got it together.

Chaos and Your Culture

Quality, efficiency, and morale aren’t the only areas of your business that will suffer if you don’t put processes in place. Your culture won’t have the ability to solidify, and it ends up becoming dysfunctional. As the owner or leader, you have to be diligent about developing the right culture – and hiring to fit.
Tony Hsieh is a great example of this. Before Zappos, he owned an internet-based company and worked with a few other passionate employees. But Hsieh says, we “didn’t pay attention to company culture. By the time we got to 100 people, even though we hired people with the right skill sets and experiences, I just dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and was hitting that snooze button over and over again.”

It’s a refrain I hear from owners, once excited about their ideas: “I’m not having fun anymore. All I do is put out fires all day long. We can’t hire the right people. I dread coming to work.” As Hsieh points out, if he felt like that, what must his employees have felt?

He ended up selling. When he came on with Zappos, he made a point to put culture first. They created 10 core values, and they interview for fit. Really. They actually conduct two separate interviews: one relates to skills and experiences. The other is purely to determine cultural fit.

As Hsieh says, “Is this someone we would choose to have dinner or drinks with, even if they weren’t working for Zappos?” (1) You might not care about dinner and drinks, but you should care about how they mesh with your culture.

Slow down. It’s the last thing you want to hear, isn’t it? It’s oxymoronic, but to grow at this stage, you have to slow down, address the chaos, and stabilize your company. Pull back and put the processes in place that will shore up your business, reduce errors and redundancy, improve morale, and establish your culture. Otherwise, growth might not be a problem you have to deal with much longer.