You’ve put in the sweat equity, made all the right moves and are starting to see the fruit of your labor. Congratulations! As a business owner, it’s a very rewarding feeling when you can step outside of your creation and physically see the success path you’ve created. An even better feeling? Stepping away completely and coming back to a well-oiled machine because your team is so in sync. It’s a beautiful thing to experience the train still moving full steam ahead, even if you’re not in the conductor’s seat.
I’ve found there to be evolutions of business. Levels. Seasons. Waves. We call the busier times high tides. The rest are regular days. But what happens when the high tides don’t end? How do you gauge if this is the new normal or just another sprint to the finish line? I asked a fellow design firm owner a few years ago, “How do you know when it’s time to hire?” His response was classic, “When it hurts.” I’ve stayed true to this motto for years and pass it on anytime I have the opportunity to.
Our most recent high tide began in February this year. After experiencing this four other times, I’ve come to know the “signs” that it’s time to expand and shift the team. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Understand the length of your high tide. If our high tide lasts more than three months, it’s most likely the new normal and we should consider what area of expertise needs to be expanded upon. Anything less than that is a temporary sprint and will pass. There’s no need to expand the team for a short-term season.
2. Watch for burn out. It’s never good to experience team burn out. It happens with every great team, but it’s important to eliminate or diffuse it as soon as possible. When you see your team start to decline, get in there. Offer your help. Give them breaks. Show them the end-goal. Buy them ice cream! Whatever it takes to get them reenergized.
3. Plan ahead. When your schedules are extra plentiful, planning ahead is essential. Find a calendar system that works for you. We went back to good old-fashioned paper calendars for individual project scheduling. Use shared calendars so everyone is aware of everyone else’s schedules. Know what you need to do two weeks out and know where you can and can’t flex for pop in tasks.
4. Communicate often. When everyone is going 100 different directions, the tiny details often get left on the side of the road. Write things down. Talk regularly. Have clear and concise team meetings so everyone is on the same page and then get out of their way. One rule? Never assume, always ask. Communication saves time and frustration.
5. Show them the light. When your team is dedicated, they’ll do whatever it takes to carry the whole crew threw. But even the best employees need a light at the end of the tunnel. Share your plan with them. And when there is a plan, act quickly. Show them you’re working to make changes to bring peace back to the new normal.
Growing pains can be scary, but they can also be very rewarding if you listen and act on them. Gary Vaynerchuk recently said, “Be the architect and the mason.” When you’re going through a growth spirt, be the visionary that leads the team but also the person who rolls up their sleeves and gets in the trenches with everyone. And most importantly, make the decisions that positively affect the team and your clients in the fastest and most efficient way.