First, before I get in trouble with all the animal rights groups, let me state that I have never boiled a frog myself. Second, what in the heck does this have to do with your business?
If you have not heard the story of boiling a frog before, it goes something like this. If you drop a frog in a pot of warm water, the frog will be perfectly comfortable and relax since this is its natural habitat. Then, if you slowly start to increase the temperature, just a degree or two at a time, the frog will never realize the difference and try to jump out. That is until it is too late and the frog boils.
What does this have to do with your business?
A little on the gruesome side, but I have worked with many businesses that are in this exact situation. When you first launch your new product, you are scrambling just to get it to market and make those first few sales. Everybody involved is in pure survival mode at that point. Hopefully, your product takes off, everybody loves it and the sales start to multiply.
At this point, your team is having a blast. The sales are multiplying, revenue is increasing and the new ping pong table in the break room is a hit. During this phase of growth, your business is largely running on sheer willpower. A customer wants something out of the ordinary – no problem. It may take an all-nighter and some extra effort, but you make it happen.
Fast forward …
Now, fast forward a bit. The sales continue to grow, but now they are causing more stress on the infrastructure of your company. Quick side note: by infrastructure, I am looking at a variety of things from the org chart of your business (are the right people in the right seats) to the workflows and processes between departments (is accurate information being shared and readily available, etc.) to the tools used for automation, communication, and reporting.
Instead of celebrating at the ping pong table, you are dealing with more and more fires in your business. Sales can’t understand why production and operations are dropping the ball on delivering what they promised to the customer. Customer complaints are up as orders are not being fulfilled on time or at the quality they have come to expect. And worst of all, you can’t find any reliable data to predict what you have done or need to do in the future.
At this point, you are left with a decision to make. Each day, you are riding a tight rope trying to keep your business together and it is constantly on the verge of the wheels flying off. So, do you turn back or do you go forward? Do you retreat to the good old days and decide that you are going to be a small boutique-type company? Or do you decide to press forward and grow your company? If so, what does that really mean?
If this is where you are, what you really need is an outside, big picture, top-down review of the infrastructure of your company. Often, when I am working with entrepreneurial business leaders in this position, they are too focused on the little fires. You know, who is complaining the loudest, be it internally or a customer. They cannot see the forest for the trees, and they need help to pull back, reassess, and build a plan to move forward.
The bottom line is you have a product that is in demand, you have the sales working, now you need a solid infrastructure in place to support future growth.