Even If You Don’t Think It’s Broke, Shake Things Up

What a view. From where you sit, as the CEO of an organization with 161 – 500 employees, you have the right to be proud. How many of us ever sit back and simply bask in the pleasure of being successful? If you are like most CEO’s, you spend very little time in reflection of where you have come from – you move quickly on to your next challenge, your next successful endeavor.

Stage 7, the Visionary stage of growth, offers great opportunity while throwing even larger challenges your way. The phrase “You can tame a wild duck but you can’t make a tame duck wild,” speaks volumes about a CEO’s challenges in Stage 7. Management’s efforts to professionalize the company often crush the entrepreneurial spirit that is so necessary in order not to be left behind by other, newer entrepreneurial firms.
Because of its size, your company has started to form layers of bureaucracy that quickly impede performance and growth.

As you listen to your direct reports and employees talking around the “water cooler” you are hearing:
“That’s the way it’s always been done, I don’t know why they want us to change.”
“We really don’t have the right people on board to make that change.”
“No one cares about what I’m doing, so why should I care?”
“I don’t know what’s going on – they never tell us anything anymore.”

The law of business at this stage says if you aren’t telling your employees what’s going on, they are making it up on their own. And their “fill in the blanks” verbiage is MUCH different than yours. Theirs is full of fear, uncertainty, negative speak and “attitude.”
Your primary role as the leader is to spend 75% of your time as the Visionary. You need to engage, excite and empower your employees to think about and see the new vision of where the company is going from here.

Don’t let your company fall prey to the “invisible employee” syndrome. You now have enough employees in your company that the mediocre ones can simply blend in with the woodwork. You know what I’m talking about. You have employees in your company that just aren’t performing at the level they should.

It’s sometimes easy to overlook them, allowing these employees to become “invisible” and if you do, you are making a mistake. Don’t let them become an invisible negative force in your company. Either focus on helping them raise their performance level or part ways.

The Top 5 challenges in a Stage 7 company include:

  1. Weak product/service development and differentiation in market.
  2. Profits are inadequate to grow the company.
  3. Too slow getting new products/services to market.
  4. The need for an improved profit design.
  5. The marketplace and your customers are changing too quickly.

A company in Stage 7 will have an overwhelming tendency to gravitate toward safety and equilibrium. It will start to act like a large company – its decision making is slower, the product innovation is slower, and the bureaucracy is formidable.
It’s harder to respond as quickly as a younger, more agile organization. Your job as the leader in a company of this size – along with sustaining and propagating the vision of the company – is to create a degree of disequilibrium and chaos within the enterprise.

Your goal? Create a corporate culture that supports entrepreneurial endeavors.
How? Start by going through your company lighting fires of inspiration and innovation. Be relentless in allowing mistakes in the pursuit of new endeavors. Get out from underneath the strategic and operational challenges in order to identify and carve out new opportunities.

The Five Non-Negotiable Leadership Rules for a Stage 7 company are:

  1. Overhaul the business model to optimize direction and margins.
  2. Get to know a little something about every single employee.
  3. Sell everyday.
  4. Create a company-wide leadership succession plan.
  5. Generate, track and preserve cash.

Recapturing the entrepreneurial spirit that you had when you were a much smaller, much more nimble company is critical. Identifying new opportunities, fostering exploration, developing action plans and assigning the necessary resources to manifest those plans is your new paradigm.

All of ACT One’s programs are designed to focus on your stage of growth. If you are a stage 7 company, we can provide you with the top five challenges for your stage of growth. We can get you focused on the “rules of the road” for a company with 161 – 500 employees. And we can help you get ready for the day you add that next employee and catapult you into the next stage of growth.