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Rapid Growth: Dealing with People for Success

I’m not exactly Dale Carnegie (author of How to Win Friends and Influence People), but I’m not too bad at dealing with people. Dealing with co-workers during times of rapid growth can be tough and very frustrating. The main reason that dealing with employees at company that are undergoing rapid growth is difficult is because are busy (especially executives). They barely have time to do their jobs, much less help you do your job.

Management Dealing with Frontline Employees:
For some reason, executives and management (especially at larger companies) often don’t know how to talk to or deal with frontline employees. Here are some tips for management to deal with frontline employees:

  • Be nice.This is so obvious, but people just don’t seem to get it. You need to be nice to people you want to deal with. Be friendly, try and help them, do things at their convenience, and all of those things. Also be sure to let employees know that you appreciate them.
  • Give them time. Executives often like to call an employee to their office and continue checking their email, answering phone calls, and talking to other people at the same time. This is rude and a waste of everyone’s time. Give whoever you are meeting with your full attention and don’t do anything else that isn’t related (i. e. looking something up) to the conversation at hand.
  • Don’t interrupt them. Another thing executives like to do is ambush employees during their break (lunch or mid-shift, etc.). Don’t do that – the employees need their break time. Pull them off the floor (when they aren’t terribly busy) and ask if it is a good time to talk.
  • Follow through. If you say you are going to do something, follow through on it. Similarly, if your company practices succession management then let your employees know about the potential for advancement and give them the opportunity to accomplish it.

Employees Dealing with Management:
Employees are sometimes (actually, usually) afraid of management. I can see their reasons, but they need to get tougher and be able to talk to the leaders at their company.

  • Stop fearing. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. I wouldn’t worry about talking to management unless you are going to say something that could easily insult someone or something and word it as such. Word everything as constructive criticism or a way to enable you to do your job better.
  • Be considerate. Ask about the best way to get in touch with the particular person (email, phone, etc.) and times they are generally available. If they say they are busy, say “OK, I’ll catch up with you another time” and walk away. You will probably need to be persistent, but you shouldn’t be annoying.
  • Have your information. Along the lines of being considerate, ensure you have all of the information you need before talking or meeting with an executive or management team member. You should have all the facts, figures, prices, contact information, and whatever else might be relevant.

Supervisors and middle managers need to follow both sets of advice. They are a liaison between the employees and the management and need to make both groups happy. Everyone being able to work with each other is extremely important. Though these guidelines should be followed all the time, they are especially important to follow when people are unusually busy or overloaded, such as a time of rapid growth.

Rapid Growth: Recruiting, Hiring, and Training

A very common set of problems that companies run into during rapid growth times are the problems associated with recruiting, hiring, and training staff members. Like a lot of things during rapid growth times, the quality levels typically go down a few notches when everyone gets busy.

Recruiting & Hiring:
I am so happy when I have already covered things that come up in series. I talk quite a bit about hiring. Here are some posts that are worth reviewing:

These posts address a few key issues (where to find people, how to ensure you hire the right people, etc.). By the way, I discovered this article about Headsets.com’s hiring process. It is pretty lengthy process (as Mike Faith described in his interview with Service Untitled) and is worth looking at.

The most important thing when it comes to recruiting and hiring is not to settle. You need a big batch of candidates to pick from and to get that, you may need to spend some money. Post ads everywhere, hire recruiters, setup an employee referral program, and quite a bit more.

Training:

Hire trainers.
If your company doesn’t already have a dedicated trainer (or more), it should. My general rule of thumb is for every 50 employees, one needs to have a job related exclusively to training. Depending on the company, this number may need to be higher or lower. An average company with 150 employees should do well with three dedicated trainers.

A dedicated trainer is someone who wakes up everyday and thinks about how to make the training process at Company XYZ better. They then go into work and do the actual training or something related to it (i. e. writing documentation for training) all day.

Hire other people.
Hire other to help with training, recruiting, and hiring. You may need an employee assessment expert, someone that specializes in interviewing, and a few recruiters. You can bring these people on as full employees (if you think it is needed) or simply as consultants. Companies that are growing quickly don’t have time to “figure it out.”

If you are hiring 5 people a day, you need to make sure they are right for your company. If not, the mistake can be costly. It is far less expensive to hire someone to do it right. The same goes with your training programs – why waste a week of your new employees’ time? Make sure the time counts.

Rapid Growth: Pros, Cons, and Focus

Believe it or not, rapid growth in companies actually has its advantages when it comes to customer service. Not suprisingly, it has a lot of disadvantages as well.

Advantages:

  • Influx of new sales and customers
  • Things are easy to change
  • Often increased publicity and exposure, which means new sources for potential partners, employees, etc.
  • More money for things like hiring, improvements, etc.

Disadvantages:

  • Influx of new sales and customers
  • Things are easy to change
  • Employees at all levels are often overwhelmed from too much work
  • Quality levels often suffer

Those are just some of the many. These happen to play the biggest role when it comes to customer service. What other ones can you think of?

Focus
A big problem with companies when they are in high growth periods is they often lose focus. Things simply get too busy and executives have a hard time concentrating on what needs to be done. Here are some tips for focusing during periods of rapid growth:

  • Step back. It is nessecary to step back and exaimine where you want your company to be and what you want to focus on. Write down where your priorties are and how you want to see them change over the next several months and longterm.
  • Bring on more people. During times of rapid growth, it will be nessecary to bring on more people and to delegate some day-to-day responsibilites. Consider hiring consultants, promoting from within, and hiring people especially for specailized jobs. Having people able to concentrate on each part of the business will ensure the company can achieve it goals.
  • Communicate the goals. An important part of focusing is communicating the goals and the focus to everyone. This one they can point it out if you are drifting or if there is something you could be doing better.
  • Stay focused. Be sure to stay with whatever your focus is. It is important to remind yourself every day “We want to become the best customer service company.” or whatever your focus happens to me. If you remember that when making decisions and when working, it will be much easier to remain focused throughout your company’s growth.

Series: Customer Service in Rapid Growth

As someone who follows business as well as a consultant, I have noticed that growth presents a big challenge to customer service orientated organizations (Duh).

These companies, which are often relatively small (usually well under 200 or so employees) realize that they are growing quite fast, but can’t quite keep up with it. They are obviously doing something right, but dealing with day-to-day things when a company is growing and expanding rapidly is tough. When you are involved with the company directly, it seems almost impossible. Everything moves faster and it is hard to put things into perspective.

This week I am going to talk exclusively about customer service in rapid/high growth companies. It will touch a bit on regular business management as well, but the main focus is customer service in high growth companies. Next week I will return to normal posts about other things.

Some things that will be covered:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and training
  • Helping to focus during times of rapid growth and align the company properly
  • Advantages and disadvantages of rapid growth when it comes to customer service
  • Dealing with management and other staff to aid through rapid growth times
  • Procedures and processes that can be implemented to aid with growth
  • Technology that can be used to help deal with and even benefit from growth
  • and quite a bit more.

Keep in mind that I am not an enterprise level customer service, business, or software guy. Most of my experience is dealing with relatively small businesses that have under 200 employees. That is the group to which most of the advice, insight, information, etc. I provide is targeted to, especially in this series.

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