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Design Your Business to Grow

By Don Harkey, co-founder and chief operating officer of People Centric Consulting Group

Jul 06 2017 at 4:32 a.m.

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You won the bid! Your team has worked hard and invested time to put together a great bid package, and you have just received a call that you have been awarded the contract. It’s a big job for your company. You’ve been busy, but this will take you to a whole new level. You’ll have to hire some extra help, but it is worth it. You call your best project manager to your office to deliver the great news.  

When she walks into your office, you excitedly tell her, “We got it!” She looks at you, still standing in the doorway with a strange look on her face.

“I’ve accepted another job. I’m moving away in two weeks.”

You are shocked. She was the key to making this whole thing work. Your other two project managers have far less experience, and you don’t have anyone waiting in the wings. Sure there are some folks who could probably do the job, but they need to be trained, and now you don’t have time. 

You reflect on that thought. Now you don’t have the time? Your company has never seemed to have enough time. When your best PM first suggested that she start training some future PMs, you thought it was a good idea, but then life happened. The high-potential PMs are good workers, and you could never spare them from the field without jeopardizing timeline and cost.  

Now you wonder if you’ve made a good decision. You are in a bad place. You’ve got the work, but you failed to develop your talent pipeline to handle the growth.

Unfortunately, this is an all too common scenario for many contractors. The focus is on minimizing costs to maximize profit while the work is there so that you can survive when it’s not there. You spend all your time (and more) working in the business and never got around to working on the business.

Don’t make this mistake.

As your business grows, invest in your talent. Invest in developing your next generation of leaders. Work hard to build a work culture that attracts good people and make sure you are taking care of those people when they join your team. Make sure that you aren’t the only one working on the business. Engage your team to help you to improve processes and find efficiencies. It will build their engagement levels and make them better problem-solvers.

An architecture client who we worked with understood the concept of designing their business to grow. During a slow time, they invested time in improving their workflows. They took short-term losses on small projects to train their junior architects and give them valuable experience. Recently, this firm has seen an influx of new projects, and the team was ready. They had significant bench strength to handle the extra work. The team hit the ground running, and the company was able to maximize profits during the growth spurt.  

In fact, the company saw so much value in working to design the company to grow, they continued to invest in their people even during busy times. They sent their senior architects to management training. They brought in interns to learn the processes. They continued to find ways to make their processes better.  

Designing for growth had become part of their process, and the result was that they were able to enjoy the fruits of growth.

I know you are busy, but it is critical that you find time to continue to improve your business and your team. The returns will include more long-term profit and fewer headaches, and your busy-ness might cure itself.