An introduction to making sure your team and processes are ready for growth

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While not every business aims to or necessarily wants to grow, business growth is a natural, desirable outcome for many business leaders.

Expansion is an exciting time, but requires careful consideration to deliver long-term success. If you’ve already started growing, but feel like the pressure on your team and processes is mounting it’s not too late to pull the reins back. This doesn’t mean turning down work, it simply means putting the right processes in place.

What factors contribute to preparing your team and processes for growth?

Greater demand is only one half of any business’s growth story. It’s great that more people want to purchase your product or service – but if you do not have enough staff or capacity to deliver, then growth in demand can quickly become negative.

Overstretched teams

An overstretched or under-resourced team cannot respond to opportunities and may miss client deadlines because it’s stretched too thin.

Developing management layers

At a certain size of the business, a stratum of managers becomes a necessity. As a business leader, you must be able to delegate day-to-day tasks to managers, so you can focus on more strategic, big picture concerns.

As Hannah Duraid at the Great Escape observed, managers allow her to “work strategically”. “They take up small things like people calling sick or rotas.”

What you’ll find, as your business grows, is an increasingly stark difference between “leadership” and “management”. As a leader, you will set the business’s strategy and decide on the right course of action – while your managers will help manage the execution of that strategy.

As a growing business, capable lieutenants are a vital step in cultivating what the American academic Ethan Mollick calls “collective creativity”. That is, channelling individual sparks of inspiration or innovation into manageable, coordinated wins for your business.

Staff development

Internal recruitment offers multiple advantages. Management roles are often best suited to folks who have an insider's view or knowledge.

It’s also an easy way to encourage loyalty. According to the Harvard Business Review, 95 per cent of hiring is done to fill existing positions. This situation is caused by high turnover and the main reason employees leave is for advancement.

By offering opportunities to progress in-house, retention will improve. This means less time treading water with refilling positions and more time hiring strategically.


“We’ve had really good growth the past three years, but we were suffering from growing pains. I realised that to take advantage of opportunities and overcome the challenges involved in growing a business, we needed a totally different approach. In essence, that would involve me becoming a ‘leader of leaders’, being less hands-on and delegating responsibility further down the organisation.”

Richard Wilde, founder of Milexa

The cold hard facts

What are the most common concerns of leaders when growing a business?

The most pressing growth concerns cited in research by Barclaycard were maintaining employee wellbeing and satisfaction (66 per cent), followed by finding and retaining talent (64 per cent), standing out from the competition (63 per cent) and maintaining customer service standards (63 per cent).

Common mistakes when preparing for growth

When you’re at the helm of a growing business, it’s unlikely you’ll have the time (or that you necessarily should) get into the trenches to motivate employees.

Instead, careful thought needs to be given to incentives and targets. As the truism goes, a business leader pulls employees towards a goal and a manager pushes them. Managers will handle day-to-day motivation – but require effective goal setting processes.

Not setting clear KPIs

In the early days of a business, growth is often a bit more intuitive and organic. What you’ll find, however, as your business becomes bigger (and more unwieldy), is that setting KPIs is essential to plan more strategically.

KPIs are important because they keep objectives at the forefront of your decision making. But they need to be clear, unambiguous and quantitative. There are many to choose from, for example, customer lifetime value (CLV), employee turnover rate and, of course, profit.

Getting your team and processes ready for growth? Find action plans, real business stories and more in our dedicated resource hub.

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Inadequate hiring process

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 82 per cent of companies now use some form of pre-employment assessment tests. Pre-hire assessments can improve the quality of your hiring process.

The best tests measure aptitude, fit or potential in scientifically validated ways. This could be a test on a person’s technical expertise, integrity tests, cognitive ability tests or even, depending on your industry, physical ability tests.

Not empowering employees with increased responsibility

Many business leaders, especially of the entrepreneurial variety, can hoard work. It’s easy to feel like only you can do the job right and hard to let go. At a certain point, this becomes damaging.

According to Gallup, 85 per cent of employees worldwide are still not engaged or are actively disengaged at work, despite more effort from companies. A big part of that is feeling as if their work doesn’t matter or they aren’t developing.

Instead, provide your managers and workers with clear goals and let them figure out the best way to achieve them.

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“Have financial targets obviously but don’t focus solely on profit. Focus on the people that deliver your product, focus on your product and focus on the people that consume your product. Then the profit will come.”

Tom Ross, group operations director at The Pig Hotel

The cold hard facts

How does pay affect employee engagement?

Your employees work to earn a living and salary is an absolutely vital part of employee engagement. It’s not necessarily a case of a “high” salary but merely a fair one. Paying people at market rate (or perhaps even slightly higher) will boost retention.

According to the global recruitment consultancy Robert Half, an employee’s departure “can often cost their company more than double their annual salary”, so it’s important to get it right.

Quick wins to get your team and processes ready for growth

As already covered, employees – and happy ones, at that – are a vital part of expanding sustainably. But people do leave, move on and change careers. They come and go.

What stands the test of time is the processes you put in place. This will minimise disruption when natural turnover occurs.

Set KPIs and targets related to customer service

While profit and other financial KPIs are obviously vital to your business, beware that they can seem distant to employees whose impact on profitability might not be clear in their day-to-day role.

Instead, set your employees KPIs and targets related to customers, guests or users. As The Pig Hotel Group’s Tom Ross noted, if employees are “driven by sales and profitability then they will not be thinking about the guest as their first thought”.

“Of course, there are targets to meet and we guide and coach our leaders on what these are and how to meet them but hotels and restaurants are about hospitality and people. We make poor decisions when driven by profit,” he added.

Formalise your processes

As the author and consultant Michael Gerber once explained, “Organise around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant”.

At an earlier stage of any business, processes can be quite informal. But as things grow and develop, this needs to change. The process for hiring is a classic example.

Formalising this doesn’t just mean writing it down. It means attaching auditable standards to each step, like ensuring the job role is accurately defined and getting employees from the relevant team involved in the process.

Test new ideas

Set a standard for testing out new ideas quickly and effectively. As your headcount grows, employees and managers will naturally come up with ideas. This is fantastic – but some ideas will be dead-ends. Others could transform your business.

Testing ideas before investing time and resources into them allows you to focus on potential winners. Formalise the steps an idea needs to fulfil to merit investment.

A tried and tested step is the consumer interview. Get employees to speak to potential buyers of a product. You can also test assumptions by interviewing experts (like an industry analyst, for example). You can also test digital ideas with landing pages and inexpensive ads.

Adhere to processes – but don’t swear by them

Sometimes a rule will be broken – and that’s okay. You just need to know when and how this happens. Think about “shortcuts” for process execution under certain circumstances, like if the amount of orders increases over a certain number.

Processes are for normal circumstances. There may be times – like a global pandemic, perhaps? – where demand might spike or work patterns might change. Have clear contingencies for when this happens.

Consider shortcuts carefully. Always ask yourself: “What are the risks involved in simplifying a process and what impact would it have on a customer or user?”

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“We were headfirst with expansion. But what we’re focusing on now is consolidating gaps in the business and de-risking. Have we got the people in the right places? What policies and KPIs do we need?”

Hannah Duraid, founder and managing director of The Great Escape Game

The cold hard facts

How to decide whether to kill or scale an opportunity?

Ideas are cheap and it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Sometimes you need a reality check. A good way to simply road test an idea is to speak to “weak ties” in your network. These are people you know – but aren’t close to.

These people will often be more honest as the social toll is much lower. As Adele Cehrs, CEO of the crisis communications firm When and How, explains: “Pose questions about your ideas and ask acquaintances to refute them. If you truly have a good idea, you can defend your thinking and have some honest critique.”

Now you’ve learnt about preparing your team and processes for growth, use our action plan to direct your next steps.