I have been working with small to medium-sized businesses for many years and I often begin with them at the point where growth has been rapid, business has been good, financial targets are getting hit but there is an emerging problem. As the growth has been quick, staff numbers have increased and managers have found themselves with larger teams.

As a small, rapidly growing business, the priority was to get things done, all hands on deck worked – a relatively flat structure, with business owners doing everything with a small team of supporting staff. Now the emphasis has changed, the business is no longer small and the need to think about the “next step” has emerged.

At this point a lot of work is put into developing the “next step” strategy, using spreadsheets and financial modeling to create those plans. To cope with increased levels of business, more staff are required. Recruitment plans are instigated, interviewing begins, more staff join. Team members are promoted to management roles and senior team members move into leadership roles. This is where a plan for the people needs to be created. Too often, these new roles fall to those without the skills and techniques needed to fulfill the role successfully. Those that used to have their fingers in many parts of the business, are now managing new team members who need support and guidance. Leaders, who set up the original business, are trying to let others take over the “day to day” but find it incredibly hard to let others do what they know and love (and are good at it).

This is where the people plan comes into play. To grow effectively, the organisation needs to invest in the development of its people. They need to help those transitioning from “doing” to “managing”, from being knee -deep in the action to being able to stand back and deliver the newly created “next step” strategy. The managers must support and motivate team members, provide feedback, delegate and coach. These are skills that they did not need before but are now crucial for future growth. Part of the people plan is also to define the culture of the business, clarify the expected behaviours and work out how the leadership and management team will model those behaviours so that they become embedded and not just written on company mugs and screen savers!!

So much work is put into achieving rapid growth and financial targets, it is a shame to jeopardise the success by overlooking the importance of developing the “people plan” and making sure that growth continues supported by a platform of skills, techniques, behaviours and culture, as well as a well-thought-out business strategy. If your organisation is growing, put some time in your diary to create a “people plan”. If you develop your people well, it will have a massive impact on the ongoing growth of your business.
Bill Osmond, MD