This session was organized on the topic of organizational growth. We discussed 3 key questions: What are the right strategies to grow revenue and why? How do founder(s) roles need to shift as the business grows and how to accomplish this? How can changes that come with growth best be communicated within the organization and externally to clients, prospects, and partners? Readings included:

Discussion of Growth Strategies

  • Different organizational models – “R & D lab” vs. “professional service agency” – implications on staffing (full time vs. freelance) and staff personality (e.g., attitude toward risk)
  • Retainer model (pay for access to talent / ideas / network)
  • Increase scale of projects (rather than the # of them at the same size)
  • Add front-end services (paid scoping and assessment w/ deliverable) and follow-up services (but scope very carefully)
  • Contract turn-around times can inhibit upfront work
  • Concentrate on new business competency – finding specific opportunities, building the funnel, and moving through (lead gen role, proposal costs)
  • Cannot cut the redundancies, things will always come up
  • Need to transition to larger project teams, may need to oversize teams in the short term to get ready for this

Discuss of Founder’s Role Shift

  • How do you get out of the way?
  • How much structure / process is needed?
  • Balance of managing vs. doing to shift to be manager of managers (i.e., “executive”)
  • Does delegation just create competition and confusion
  • Tell clients that contacting others will enable things to get done faster (but call my cell if you need anything)
  • Being able to point to others in the org based on a functional area (e.g., “creative” vs. “business”)
  • Clients follow the path of the least resistance – happy to go to another person as long as they get good service
  • Owner is the “ultimate back stop” so you catch what falls through the cracks, doing the things that in other context are a welcome “doing” task but weren’t by choice in this case

Discussion of Internal / External Communication of Change

  • What is the growth expectation – how is it set / communicated?
  • Need to be careful not to undermine people after you delegate 
  • Leadership still has to take ultimate responsibility  – “take all the blame and none of the credit”
  • Selectivity on projects is key for talent retention
  • Chart with roles over time to manage expectations
  • Bring other staff to client meetings
  • Depends on client type – ad hoc vs. bureaucratic 
  • How to handle when people’s skills/experience diverge from direction of the company?
  • Subtle shifts in responsibility are harder to manage since it’s less clear
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