MBA student asks business growth question

I got an interesting question from Scott an MBA student at the University of West Scotland who asked;

I am currently studying for my MBA at the University of the West of Scotland.  I am now at the dissertation stage and am focusing on how to effectively manage growth while maintaining quality.

After a few online searches I came across your website and though it was relevant to my dissertation.  I am required to carry out some qualitative and quantitative research and I wondered if you would take the time to answer some questions that will help in my research.  This can be conducted by email, and answered in your own time.

Basically, can companies maintain the personal touch with growing rapidly?  I will acknowledge any information given and the final dissertation will be made publicly available throughout the university, which might be some free marketing for your company.  I am also happy to put links on my company website.  We are expanding rapidly and hope to have 3 offices by the end of the year.

Excellent question and very fitting in todays market climate… on for my reponse.

Hi Scott,

Sure I would love to help.

You question as I understand it is…”can companies maintain the personal touch while growing rapidly”…

The simple answer is yes buts its difficult and requires effort and I believe that most companies both in the inception stages and later in their development will hit a series of brick walls because they don’t plan for effective growth nor build the necessary culture or systems to maintain and cultivate their most important assets, their people, which includes both their customers and members of their own company which will in turn help them maintain that personal touch.

People like dealing with people, and especially people that are like themselves.  A business should have its own recognisable personality (this is also part of their differentiation) so the working members within it and the associated customers have a common understanding.  But it’s rare to find these days in the cost down and profit squeezing culture of today’s business leaders, hence why we are seeing such a huge explosion in online social media and other forms of networking because business and it could be said political culture is damaging both its personality and levels of trust in the business and the people around it, causing a huge gap to develop.  The fact is, it should, and could, be doing the exact opposite if it put its  people first, and guess what, the money will follow.

And it’s for these same reasons that later in a company’s development when change is necessary that they fail to adapt and completely lose touch with their market which invariably results in their untimely death as the banking system is demonstrating to us all right now.

Why does this happen ?  For several reasons, in my experience most of the business books, courses and consultants I have come into contact with fail to understand “systemisation” and “integration” (looking at the business as a whole or complete system), instead considering each separate component or department.  Nor do they understand how this will fit into the “personality” of the business because invariably they start with a business plan which is a traditional cash flow and profit and loss along with general management structure etc. which is their main and sole focus and rarely is it backed up with a real plan which details how personality, technology, innovation, sales, marketing, social responsibility etc will be used to make it all happen.

Also most business founders have particular skills in a certain area, and it’s rare to find people that have a wide range of skills to tackle this top level view and implement it so they bring in outsiders that may bring the other skills but lack the overall vision and focus on their customers and the contributing members of the business.

The model of employer and employee also needs to evolve to enable more sharing of wealth and profits which win over the loyalty of its workforce, similar to the approach that Waitrose and other more socially aware companies are adopting, which is I’m afraid remains in the smallest of minorities right now but is so powerful when employed correctly as it turns your team into ambassadors or virtual sales and marketing people, as they go about their daily activities.

Team members (staff) are usually not empowered to get things done which is the fault of the company that employs them as they are inappropriately trained, employed for the wrong reasons and given system to work with that don’t help but hinder.

Technology has also been developed and sold to companies on the whole as a “point tool” (single solution) and where applications have tried to deliver some degree of integration (tool that covers multiple aspects of the business and smooth workflow) it fails to deliver, hence why we are seeing the huge explosion in open source technologies to enable the masses to develop the technologies they want and need to really move on.

Technology is also used in business on the whole to automate and reduce costs at the expense of delivering any real customer service or allowing its staff to excel.  This has come about for the main part because of the “industrialised” approach to business and automation that is still the dominating mentality.  This must change and a new understanding of the “whole” along with its fragmented and transient (ever changing) nature.

There are some excellent free tools

How many times do you here people complaining about calling call centres or trying to get what they want from a company’s web sites, how many times do you here staff complaining about their business or the company they are buying from ?

Just a few ideas off the top of my head for you to think about and I would be happy to expand on it further for you either on email or phone if you like as it’s a topic I’m quite passionate about (especially in the current state of the market) and I would like to see real constructive change.

I am both approachable and willing to share.

All the best with your project!


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