The Pitfalls Of Growing Too Fast And How To Safeguard Against It
Scott Hoots is the CEO of QC Kinetix, a leader in the regenerative medicine industry.
Growth is typically a positive thing. When we are kids, we are measured on a growth chart to ensure we are maturing at a healthy rate. Likewise, franchisors want to grow their brand to expand their profit potential. But just like kids going through growth spurts, franchises can experience growing pains with rapid development.
Growing pains often come from a mindset issue. When leadership is sitting around the table coming up with growth strategies, it’s often just economic talk. This is, after all, business, and money fuels growth. The problem comes in when there haven’t been enough discussions about brand development.
I’m a runner. What I know is that runners wear different types of shoes depending on the race. Olympic sprinters wear a shoe designed for speed. Conversely, marathon runners look for a shoe with more stability to enhance their performance for long distances. Both types of shoes are necessary to accomplish distinct goals.
For a franchise to grow at a successful pace, it’s crucial to plan for short-term and long-term development.
We can get fixated on opening as many locations as quickly as possible to increase our footprint in the marketplace. When a leader wants the brand to grow expeditiously but doesn’t properly plan on how to reach goals, there can be problems like cash flow, decreased brand standards and a damaged company culture. Pay attention to the following areas.
1. Finances: Without a strong financial strategy, there may not be ample short-term capital to fund new locations at the desired pace. There are healthy strategies for growth. If your plan is to open, let’s say, 25 locations in a year, and you have the resources, stick with the plan.
Another downfall is that often, we turn our heads and lose pace, craning to see how the competition is doing. This will create hurdles you did not anticipate. Keep your eye on both the competition and your finish line.
2. Brand standards: You can’t create positive buzz about an inconsistent brand. In the early stages of growth, your job is lead generation. You must really sell the benefits of your emerging franchise to prospective candidates. It’s a hard sell at times because you don’t have the brand recognition, so you work hard to overcome that. What you do have is energy, and you set a pace and initiate standards. Aim to create a strong bond with franchisees.
The problem occurs when the growth is so rapid that the uniformity of training, support and recruitment wanes because you have set an unrealistic growth pace. Don’t get sloppy. Short- and long-term standards must be consistent. Whatever standards you set for franchisee number one needs to be the same for franchisee number 101. When you deviate and make exceptions, you risk damage to the brand.
3. Healthy work environments: Perhaps one of the biggest issues with rapid growth is the burden on your team. When the pace becomes too fast, you no longer provide a creative space for employees to do their best work. Demands on time and effort can create an often-unhealthy stress level. The culture goes from folks feeling energized and valued to overworked and unappreciated. Poor growth planning means reactively putting out fires rather than being in control, and that wears on staff. There can be a whole system breakdown where vital details fall through the cracks, affecting the trickle-down from leadership to the team, to the franchisees to the customers.
If you want to know the solution to sustained growth, the answer is people. I’ve found retention in a fast-paced environment should not be an issue if you bring on the right people. Yes, the workload on your team will be heavy at times. You will have to do more with less. However, there are plenty of qualified candidates hungry to be a part of a growing brand. You’ve got to trust your gut.
Look for visionaries who are energized in a fast-paced environment. They’re out there. These people are innovative, imaginative, persistent and goal-oriented risk-takers. When interviewed, I like someone who looks me in the eye and honestly answers some very impactful questions. Consider these prompts.
• Tell me about a time you failed. Failure is a part of life. Listen to how the individual handled it and overcame it. Failure makes you work harder, and it often quashes arrogance. Visionaries are self-confident but check their ego at the door.
• Tell me about this company. Pay attention to how much they have prepared for the interview. I’ve found if they don’t care enough to learn about the company when they need to make a good impression, odds are they won’t care later. Go-getters do their homework. They surpass the learning curve.
• Tell me the last gutsy thing you did. The candidate may answer this question with either a professional or personal response. Try to assess how they operate. This is not about what they did, but that they were not afraid to do it.
• How do you plan on growing in your career? This question allows you to see what matters to them and where their interests lie. They may have untapped potential that could be advantageous to your corporation.
Not too long ago, a dynamic young man sent me his resume and wanted to schedule a meeting. He had talent and versatility but lacked real-world, on-the-job experience. If there’s one thing I know, you can’t look for people who just fit in boxes and have credentials that fulfill a checklist. You want people who have or want to develop a work career. I hired him and found a place for him, and I’m glad I did. He has enhanced our brand.
If you want to avoid the pitfalls of growing too fast, hire a team that’s willing to wear many hats, or in this case, shoes. Because some days the focus is on sprinting, other days it’s the marathon, but we’re always running our race.
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