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  • Adam Walter

Scale or Fail

Listen: Humanize IT Podcast Episode 112

In this follow up to our Death by Scaling episode, John Fulwider, traction coach at Gear 80, helps us truly define what it means to scale a business. Although it seems like a daunting task, it can be broken down into three easy main points.

Be Proactive with Problems

The first tip John brought up is to deal with small problems before they become bigger ones. You’d rather be the fire preventer than the firefighter, so be sure you have the resources and proactive instincts to make this a reality. This, he said, is the basic foundation that will allow you to scale your business with ease.

Promote Constant Growth

Of course, it’s hard to scale your business if it isn’t evolving over time. Regardless of if you became a viral sensation overnight or have been slowly chipping away with your organization for years, if you aren’t seeing at least some type of growth, you’re dying. Ask yourself: how have your internal and external growth factors been changing over time?

External Factors:

  • Increase in amount of employees

  • Increase in revenue

Internal Factors:

  • How simplified and streamlined is your production process?

  • Do you have the right people working in the right seats?

John suggested maintaining quarterly priorities, where every 90 days each leader is challenged to execute a 1% improvement in some area of the business, whether it’s sales, operations, IT or something else. Another approach Adam suggested was to set mini goals week by week so things don’t get overwhelming. That way, your “someday” ideas get put into action sooner.

Document the Process (But Don’t Overdo It!)

Of the six key components that will help you get a grip on the scaling of your business, documenting your process is one of the biggest. (Be sure to listen to the podcast to find out the other five!) In John’s words, the more you can systemize the predictable, the more you can maximize the exceptional, i.e. the creative aspects of your organization.

However, be careful not to have too much overhead in your process documentation. If you were to note every miniscule process, you’d end up with a 700-page manual that would actually end up being detrimental. Instead, focus on the 8 to 10 key processes that are the core of your operation. The goal is to document 20 percent of the steps that yield 80 percent of the results. Don’t think too big or too small here; keep it right at eye level. Also, try not to get caught up in rigid, chronological steps. Just keep your eye on your overarching goals for success.

When creating this outline, be sure to involve multiple parties from multiple departments. Utilize your entire leadership team — the head of each department — as well as employees within the department who are contributing their knowledge of the day-to-day process. The reasoning here is because each person has a different idea of how they prioritize each step of the process.

To better understand this, John explained the toaster analogy from this TED Talk. If you asked 100 people how to make toast, you’d get a wide range of answers. Some will simply say “Put the bread in the toaster,” and leave it at that. Others will start with the invention of electricity and explain in detail from there.

Using this knowledge, check-in often with employees at every level of your organization to question your process as a whole and tweak it as needed. And, don’t miss this episode’s Fail of the Week, where Skip shares what NOT to say when hiring people!

Stay tuned for next week’s episode where Skip and Adam continue conversations to Humanize IT.

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