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True Story: A Fast Growing Company Gets Organized

This is a true story.

Once upon a time, I had an interesting problem, the kind most small business owners want to have, but nonetheless, still a problem. We were growing too fast. Our sales tripled one year, and doubled the next.

We didn’t want to stunt our growth. But we were having trouble getting everything done. We’d outgrown the management style of a dozen or so people doing what needed done, pretty much like mice gathered around a piece of cheese, eating away where they could. Not that we didn’t have jobs and functions; we did. We divided ourselves into web programming, customer service, admin, marketing, and product development. But even so, lines kept crossing and the mice-and-cheese style wasn’t working.

We took half a day. First, we brainstormed a list of tasks. These were the things that had to get done. We mixed different time frames, long term and short term, and different functions. Phones had to be answered, books had to be kept, and so on.

Then we organized the tasks into logical groups. We came up with tracking and measurement for most of the main tasks, and, more important, we agreed on who was responsible. We discovered some overlaps, like the customer service people were just a short step away from entering customer data during a call. And the sales people were close to completing a regular customer survey. We put it all up on a white board and talked about commitment and responsibility, compared to involvement. In the classic bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. We wanted commitment. We ended up with teams, and committed team leaders.

That half-day reorganization became a new component of our ongoing business plan. It took us past the first big management hump, around 15 people, and got us all the way to the next one, which was about 30 people.

Not all problems were solved. Metrics, accountability, and tracking were critical components of ongoing management. Still, by the end of the day, we were way more organized than we’d been.


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