Presented by TriNet
As a business grows, the more complex it becomes, and the more complex it becomes, the harder it is to grow. Join this free VB Live event to learn about the symptoms of too-fast growth, plus strategies and solutions to stay on track and prioritize what matters most.
Reserve your spot here for free.
Complexity can be a company’s biggest enemy. According to a five-year study by Bain and Company, only one in 17,000 companies will grow to $500 million and become a sustained value creator because of the bottlenecks, systems breakdowns, and complexity that accompany growth. That’s because the bigger a company grows, the more likely it is to lose its way.
Early on, the company’s central mission is clear, their products and services focus tightly on a target audience, and the target audience is cleanly defined. Success can be achieved with such a well-marked path. And the team is small, closely knit, and tied to the company founder’s vision.
But as a company grows and expands its focus, enlarges its target market, and begins to add new products, complexity begins to build up like a plaque on the company’s arteries. As new employees come in, lines of command are drawn and layers between the downstream employees and upper management start to build up.
Employees become more and more detached from the central heart of the company and its leaders, and middle management begins to spend its time focused inwardly, on the minutia of bureaucracy and internal metrics, instead of outwardly, on creating the kinds of products, services, and customer service that drives real growth in a sustainable way.
The priority often becomes risk management, and agility drops away, making it painfully slow to respond to changes in the market or threats to the business. Employees become overwhelmed and performance gaps emerge, derailing the ability to serve customers and create the momentum the team desires. Faced with figuring out how to grow profitably while delighting customers and preserving critical economies of scale, organizations are often left flailing — and too often just add more complexity. Adding extra processes and more management simply clouds the real problem, and leads directly to a drop in sales and a complete halt in growth.
But while complexity can kill, companies can stop the spread, and even dial back the damage before its too late. There are some very recognizable signs to keep an eye out for.
Symptoms of too-fast growth
Recognizing the threat to the company is the first step in arresting complexity before it sinks your company, and help you regain agility and employee buy-in to your mission.
Damaged customer relationships: The clearest sign is often customer relationships beginning to erode, with dissatisfaction growing and complaints beginning to stack up. Customers do not hesitate to make their displeasure known, especially when they see that a company’s attention to their satisfaction has begun to waver. They’ll also jump ship after only a few bad experiences — and share their unhappiness at large, damaging your reputation in the market.
Employee disengagement: The cause of customer unhappiness usually comes from unhappy employees. A company awash in complexity means employees are stuck in the web. Disconnected from upper management, employees may feel like they’re overlooked, and that they’re stretched thin, with overwhelming workloads and ignored needs. When morale sinks in direct proportion to this lack of attention, so does employee engagement. The communication breakdowns that occur when there are too many layers of management and too-complex processes can hasten that spiral, as can a lack of accountability.
Loss of direction in the C-suite: Above the stairs, the company’s infrastructure may begin to seem weak, or unstable, and leaders may feel as if the company has lost its focus and direction. They might feel the disconnect of their employees, but not know how to bridge that gap. And failed or ineffectual attempts to implement change both internally and in the market may start to crop up.
Reversing the complexity creep
Luckily there are strategies and solutions to combat an overheated growth cycle and the complexity it brings. There are three main areas to focus on: the morale of frontline employees, the way decision-making happens in the C-suite, and company organization and priorities.
For frontline employees, the main goals are bringing back the focus on delighting customers, making sure every employee understands the few critical priorities that must happen. Employees should be trained to solve problems, and be given real, impactful problems to solve, which helps cultivate a culture of ownership. Creating that culture of ownership might be the most important step you take, in fact.
In the C-suite, decision-makers need to reconnect to a bold purpose and mission, redefine the company’s direction in a profound and meaningful way, and align consumer expectations with the company’s new path. They should be empowering the frontline, providing the support their customer-facing employees need to work smarter and grow more engaged. They should be creating immersive and collaborative experiences for their employees, be making connections with those workers in real and authentic ways – daily.
And for the organization overall, leaders should take a careful look at how to restructure to drive out excessive organizational layers and bureaucracy, of course. But that also includes identifying one or two core processes to be re-engineered to increase speed and scale, and eliminating products and services that are causing a drag on the organization.
Overall, everyone in the company must embrace collaboration, responsibility, and ownership, in order to re-energize not only company growth, but their own.
Learn more about the challenge of growth and how to recognize the complexity that could be undermining your team or organization when you join this VB Live event. You’ll get practical strategies for cutting through the fog of complexity, learn how to develop the skills and behaviors needed for consistent, scalable growth, and more!
Reserve your spot here for free.
Attendees will learn:
- The major challenges of too-fast growth
- How to recognize the complexity that could be undermining your team or organization
- How to adapt the skills and behaviors needed for consistent, scalable growth
- How to build teams and cultures that thrive in a complex world
- Kristine Gunn, Executive Director, Talent and Organizational Management, TriNet
- Stewart Rogers, Moderator, VentureBeat
More speakers to be announced soon!
 Bain & Company https://media.bain.com/the-founders-mentality/, Accessed October 14, 2021.
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