When a business gets to a certain size, the next step is, usually, to grow it. This is a critical point in a company’s lifecycle when the real question is ‘do we grow or do we scale?’
Founders go through this pain when they find themselves struggling to keep up with demand and paperwork.
The cycle is usually
- Start a business with a purpose – to meet a need
- Get busy
- Employ help
- Manage the help
- Realise you are managing and not doing what you started out to do yourself
Problem: scaling is not the same as growing
There is a point in every business’s lifecycle when ambition overrides purpose:
- Why did you start doing this? Because we saw a need in other people’s lives.
- How can you grow your client base? Go digital.
- Why are you going digital? To reach more people.
See the shift? Purpose has been pushed aside and scaling back to profit has become the incentive.
Take a training company, for example. Training of any sort is delivered best by someone who has experienced a process, seen the transformation for themselves, learnt how to be brilliant at delivering the method and who inspires trust, enthusiasm and purpose. And changes the way you work for the better.
A training company, however, is only able to reach as many people as they can stand in front of. So, they bring in more trainers who are also brilliant and do a great job.
Next step is that overheads grow and the training company needs more work, so they invest in a portal. They go digital.
The digital version of their training product is interactive, responsive, easy to access, can be delivered while you’re in the bath and doesn’t encroach on your life too much.
This is scaling. The only thing this grows is the training company’s top line. It certainly isn’t going to turn the brilliance the training company once delivered into ‘change’ in your daily life.
Scaling ≠ growing
The digital system may be the best there can be today but the brilliance has gone from the process. Digital may deliver a process efficiently but sometimes it genuinely gets in the way of delivering what a client needs.
Digital isn’t clever enough, yet, to listen to the room, turn the problems that get discussed into nuanced case studies and help a specific client to improve their business.
It may do this in time. It doesn’t do it now.
The answer, we believe, is to stay true to ourselves and only work with clients face-to-face or one-to-one.
The programmes room44 delivers are only available from a core team or by email with the same people.
The objective we aim at is to create a sense of purpose in you and provide you with the tools you need to change your company’s prospects.
We strive to create an environment in which change can occur and we prepare you to be the nucleator.
Our website says “Product innovation strategies for revenue and growth. It doesn’t say ’strategies to help you scale and distance yourself from your client need’.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.
Here’s one way we do it. Click to download the 10, 20-30 programme outline, new for 2020.
Look through your LinkedIn feed any day of any week and you’ll find a discussion about homeworking. An enlightened manager will be lauded as a visionary for letting a team work from home for some of the week, and somewhere in the thread there’ll be a comment and the word ‘trust’ will come up.
Managers love discussing how much they can trust people who need to work even when they aren’t being watched. To me, this creates a picture in my head of a workhouse or a typing-pool: rows of people, head down and beavering away in silence. Throw an unused ping-pong table into the picture and you’ve got a modern-era open plan office.
Ask any field sales person what it feels like to be trusted to work from home and they’ll look you in the eye to see if your pupils are dilated. No-one doubts these guys do the work.
Companies know that people are motivated to work, to have purpose, to feel useful and to contribute value. But they still struggle to let them work from flexible locations, at flexible times.
They say, ‘Oh, we need to know when you’re available so you can interact.’ But staff know that too and if they need to be at a meeting or exchange ideas some other way, they’ll do it. There’s a strong body of evidence to support this theory: it’s called self-employment.
Companies today send representatives to networking meetings across the globe. At every gathering, the same complaints ring out: ‘there’s a chronic skills shortage,’ ‘we just can’t get qualified staff.’
No shit – really?
What – after decades of squeezing people into organisational structures that glorify the top end of the hierarchy, they’ve decided they’d rather work from home. Why do we wonder why they’d rather work with each other and without the need for an HR policy to manage corporate discrimination of various kinds?
And now they won’t come and work for a company? Go figure!
Let’s not blame it all on companies though. Governments have played their part. Layer in tax on benefits and take away vocational skills training from schools and it’s no surprise that kids aren’t flocking to be engineers, joiners or have an interest in manual skills. Television has done more to attract young people into cooking and the catering trade than high school learning options.
Fail to train kids in coding and digital skills, and they’ll go and learn ‘clean’ skills themselves from YouTube. Institutions like the Open University are struggling to find a new way forward when the whole world can learn to expert level without ever signing up to a course. Ironically, bricks and mortar universities have stolen a share of the market the OU used to dominate, simply by seeing that ‘digital’ and ‘distance’ are easy ways of encouraging people to join their course instead.
But I can hear you ask, isn’t that homeworking? Yup. Young and old working away to achieve a degree from a position of self-motivation. I wonder where that’ll fit into the workplace?
Written while working from home, 06.44, 23rd April, 2019.
Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.