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GUEST COLUMN


HEALTH WARNING ON RAPID GROWTH


Without long-term planning, fast expansion can bring a great deal of upheaval to a company, its customers and employees


R


APID BUSINESS GROWTH should come with a health warning: be careful what you wish for. There may be little to match the excitement and satisfaction of landing a big new contract, but it is never- theless the case that accelerated growth can be almost as dangerous as no growth at all. Management, cash-flow, HR, IT… every- thing is affected by growth, and yet while we will all have a strategy for generating new business, how many TMCs bring the same levels of attention, energy and invest- ment to managing the impact of new wins? In the past five years my company grew turnover by 144 per cent. Employee headcount moved from 85 to 115 in the same period, so managing fast-paced growth has been very much front of mind. So too, and running in tandem, has been business re- tention. We learnt – and not always the easy way – the importance of planning. Faced with the fast and furious demands of growth, few of us will actually welcome the extra pressure of adapting to new systems, but this is a moment to reflect and adapt. Address and invest in firm structure and organisation as exemplified by a robust Quality Management System, such as that demanded by ISO 9001, and your growing business will reap the rewards. Fast expansion invariably dictates changes at management level. For us, the pursuit of Investors in People (IIP) accred- itation, originally identified as a capacities development initiative, assisted in pin- pointing exactly what management struc- ture was needed to handle intense levels of growth. IIP encouraged us to expand our middle management level, introducing a


KEITH GRAHAM Managing director, Selective Travel Management


THE FOCUS ON NEW WINS MUST NEVER TAKE THE SHINE OFF HANDLING


LONG-ESTABLISHED BUSINESS


buyingbusinesstravel.com


“promote from within” culture, which both motivated staff and allowed us to field a team that could hit the ground running. The direct link between corporate success and personal opportunity must be evident to all – running deeper than the offer of competitive salaries backed by at- tractive reward and recognition packages. Current employees, as well as new recruits, must understand and share the company vision and core values, and see how and where they fit into the bigger picture. Importantly, the focus on new wins must never take the shine off handling long-es- tablished business – something that needs to be clear to customers as well as staff. In a small business a good manager will know what’s going on and who’s doing what. As you drive your business to the next level, that can no longer be assumed. The benefits of an open door should never be underestimated, but effective commu- nication will ensure staff experiences and learnings are shared and will allow you to tap into employee creativity. Measured KPIs in arenas such as Continuous Im- provement, Positive Feedback and Service Level Agreement maintenance will provide a near-instant and accurate overview. Get things right internally and you are almost there… I say “almost” because looking outward is as important as your inward focus. Listen actively to your customers, with a receptive rather than defensive attitude, and you’ll get the best possible insight about what’s good and bad about your growing business.


2019 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 153


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