Leader Volume 8, Number 7
of Balance in a Growing Organization
Marken is President of Marken Communications, Inc. in Santa Clara,
California (phone 408-986-0100; email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Companies are a
lot like people, in that they go through a complete life cycle.
First, thereís the gestation period when the company is an idea
thatís talked about, and the parents-to-be plan big things for
the child-to-be. Birth occurs when the founders leave their
present company, rent some office/storage space, obtain funding
and start nurturing their first product in earnest.
These are the fun years in the life of a company. Energy,
togetherness, creativity and dedication are everything.
People work long
hours and have fun for little or no pay (especially when compared
to their contributions). People
worry less about titles and job descriptions and more about the
task at hand.
formative years, the organization begins to take shape and a
management structure is developed. Top executives must spend less
time on products (they are still permitted this luxury though) and
more time developing and managing others.
During this period, the company grows from a core group,
and a management style emerges.
As the company
continues to grow, it enters adolescence.
Just as parents encounter problems with their children
during this phase, the founders of a company also begin to
encounter problems. The
management team is stretched thin and sales begin to flatten.
They suddenly have to acquire new skills to help the firm
move on to its next growth level.
adolescent period, there are rapid growth spurts.
A loose, fun organization must give way to one of greater
This time in the
organization's growth calls for a more professional management
approach. It is here
that founding management often stumble, step aside, or are moved
managerial, entrepreneurial and/or technical skills may no longer
be an asset to their company.
While sales move
to substantially higher levels, the employee population has also
grown dramatically. Now
thereís a far greater diversity of expertise, capabilities,
goals and desires.
To reach this
stage of maturity, and to pass safely through it, management must
acquire even more skills. The
company is now highly organized and has a very structured
environment. The CEO now needs professional management skills and must
surround herself or himself with people who have superior
management experience and capabilities.
instances, dramatic product acceptance whisks a young organization
through the formative years to maturity without permitting the
infrastructure to properly develop.
These blips of
meteoric growth often mask many problems.
Since the structure and team are not properly in place, the
system breaks down because growth cannot maintain itself. The
company needs the support of management and others to carry the
firm safely through these phases.
The heads of
these organizations have basked in the spotlight of success.
They have become gurus.
Their pronouncements have been held in awe. When the system
breaks down, itís often too late to save the company except with
the use of extreme measures.
Our heroís words suddenly take on the flavor of the
ravings of a madman.
Just as with
life, thereís a natural process of development in a company.
Its leadership must experience a similar increase in
skills. Those who develop these skills are able to bring the
company through the critical periods and get it back on the road
to solid success. Those who can't are destined to help bury the
company or are "retired" to let others get the growth
and profits moving.
The key to the
leader's success is balancing a set of tangible and intangible
* Effective management is fundamental to the success of any
a good foundation, activities are fraught with frustrations. Planning, organizing and controlling are essential
* Technology plays a less important role for top managers as
the organization evolves and grows.
A specialist often finds it difficult to give up his first
love, but it must be done if he is to become an effective manager
of a growing organization. However,
he can't totally abandon his expertise, because many critical
decisions require solid expertise, as well as an awareness of
industry trends in that specific area.
* Marketing soon becomes the heartbeat of any organization, and
leaders must develop strong product-marketing skills--especially
in the areas of positioning, strategic marketing, and
sales/revenue forecasting. This
means positioning the company in its target market and developing
the kind of thinking that can help the company make its way
through the marketing maze.
It is essential
that managers understand who is buying the product, what they are
buying and why they are buying it. This area is so important that
many industry leaders feel that the heads of companies should
spend at least 40 to 50 percent of their time with customers. They
also learn a lot about the customer's wants and needs ... now and
in the future, and they also learn about current and potential
* From the very start, top managers have to gain a whole new
perspective of finance in order to control budgets. Then, as things become more complex, they must gain skills in
general accounting, cost accounting, cash flow, asset management
and so forth.
* Operations becomes important as management has to be
concerned with the dispersal and use of its assets.
to balance the tangible or measurable skills with a philosophy of
thinking that provides consistency in management style.
These intangible skills can sometimes carry, pull or push
an organization through the rough times.
* Determination, combined with dedication and desire, is
difficult to beat during the early phases of an organization's
almost-blind determination to do whatever it takes, and the
willingness to go the extra mile, will motivate others.
* Leadership takes many forms and has many facets that help
motivate others to achieve even beyond their own expectations.
This demands that top management: 1) is trusted, 2)
demonstrates good judgment, 3) shows initiative, 4) is sensitive
to people and events, and 5) is optimistic about the companyís
* Build a team of the best people available.
Employee selection is one of the most difficult things that
leaders have to do. They
can never be 100 percent certain that they are making the right
decision until months or years later.
* Communication in an organization of any size is vital to its
success. During the
early stages, itís easy. As
the firm grows, it becomes more difficult.
To improve communication, leaders should be open, honest,
unselfish and willing to listen attentively.
* Human relations are important throughout the organization.
Call it a corporate culture; itís an interrelationship
with others in the organization that keeps people motivated and
working toward a common goal: corporate success.
Through all the
growing pains of an organization, thereís no substitute for
desire, dedication and determination.
These traits, along with good ideas and good teams, can
assist leaders in turning ideas into realities ... and successes.