Do you ever wish you could look in a crystal ball and see the future of your company? Many of the remodelers I work with do. It doesn't take a fortune-teller to predict that change will be the one constant as your company grows. Change never stops. Here are some peeks into that world beyond.
Weird Feelings Your role as owner will change. You may have once been your company's carpenter, salesperson, and production manager. However, by the time your volume reaches $3 million to $5 million, your duties as owner and coach to a growing number of employees require you to lead and manage full time. As one not-yet-transitioned company owner notes, “I have this weird fear of being perceived as some sort of worthless figurehead. What I do is less measurable on a daily or weekly basis.”
As your staff grows larger, some of the loyal employees who got you where you are today will no longer make the cut. Some may remain but will need a layer of supervision above them. Your salesperson may not be sales manager material. Your top lead carpenter may not want to try out for production manager. Your bookkeeper may not be the controller the company now needs.
If you plan to grow, start identifying those employees who are “investment quality.” They must be smart, have a desire to learn new things, and be willing to supervise and coach others. More importantly, they must accept responsibility for their results and must always represent the company culture well.
Clients will see less of you personally, and will begin to work with you more as a company. If you continue to grow, you won't even meet all your clients. That can make your buyers tougher and more demanding. Your norm will have to become strong paper documentation and clear expectations.
Systems will need regular rebuilding to accommodate more jobs and more staff handoffs. You'll have to standardize the way your company does business (change orders, contracts, design, estimating) and make these standards teachable to new hires.
Meetings will become critical; they can no longer be viewed as a waste of time. Meetings will serve to communicate important information, update staff on the state of the company, train staff on “the company way,” communicate and reward the company's core values, and encourage leadership and accountability.
Marketing and sales efforts will have to become constant, so that the intake pipe remains full at all times. Building backlog will become a key security issue. You'll no longer be able to keep your staff busy in slow times by building a closet in your garage. Your team will be an even bigger investment, and you'll have many more mouths to feed.
If you're in a partnership, growth may trigger some stress fractures. You and your partner will have to align your vision and your roles; failure to do this could be your company's undoing.
Metrics Before Rewards Above all, growth will intensify your company's need for cash, working capital, and profitability. More volume in and of itself — unless it is profitable — has probably crushed more remodelers than any other business factor. To assure your consistently positive financial position, you will have to identify and constantly monitor your company's key metrics.
What are the rewards of sustainable, profitable growth? First and foremost, when growth is well done, it can provide more money for all. It can free you to take more time off and enjoy extended vacations. It can compel your subs and suppliers to court you for business.
Growth can also provide personal growth opportunities for you and your staff — opportunities to learn new leadership, coaching, and managing skills — and it can open up new roles for your superstar employees. And let's not forget how growth can make your company more salable, by equipping it with competent middle management. That's a nice image for any crystal ball to bear. — Linda Case is founder of Remodelers Advantage in Laurel, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. 301.490.5260; firstname.lastname@example.org;www.remodelersadvantage.com.