Growth Stages Operations Team Uncategorized

Stage 3 – No longer CEO-centric: Time to start letting go

Stage 3 Company (20-34 employees)

Hang on to your sanity, your world just shifted.

The dynamic that occurs when a company moves to Stage 3 (20 – 34 employees) is unlike anything you’ve been through. Up to this point in the company’s history, it has been CEO-centric – your passion, your vision, your blood, sweat and tears have carried the company successfully to this point.

With the addition of employee #20, a strange phenomenon occurs. We liken it to when your preteen, who use to think you walked on water, now thinks you’re dumb and dumber. You are just a few months away from a staff revolution. You’ve felt the subtle change – your employees are a bit harder to manage, they push back more often, their attitude hits you in the face when you least expect it – you seem to be at odds with them on a daily basis.

Do not look at them – look at yourself. Your company just hit a wall in how you manage it, and you are the one who has to make some changes — quickly.

Delegating is Key

A couple of critical forces are hitting at the same time. In Stage 1 and Stage 2, a company is CEO-centric. When you move into Stage 3, it becomes Enterprise-centric. It’s too big for you to continue to ‘wear all the hats’. It’s time to start ‘passing those hats’ around to the incredibly talented people you have hired.

You have also just come through a Wind Tunnel – a chaos zone that requires you to let go of methodologies that no longer work and adapt new ones that do. That is a lot for any CEO to deal with.

Stage 3 has the highest incident of CEO-burnout of any stage of growth, and it’s easy to understand. Suddenly you have to start managing, delegating and team building like there was no tomorrow.

The top 5 challenges for a Stage 3 company include:

  1. Staff buy-in
  2. Leadership/staff gap
  3. Weak business design
  4. Unclear core values
  5. Staff is resistant to change

Four out of five of your top challenges center on people issues. It’s no wonder that as a company moves into this critical stage of growth that many CEOs lose some of the enthusiasm, the passion that was their ‘life line’ up to now. You could always call on your ‘life line’ to get you through those tough times. Now you have to start relying on your people. You have to start ‘trusting, believing, managing, training, teaching, coaching, rewarding, caring and communicating’ with each and every person in your company. And you have to do it daily.

Avoid a Staff Revolution

Want to know how to avoid the ‘staff revolution’? One word: Communication.
And lots of it. Now. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next month.

Your employees are just as excited about the success of your company as you are. Give them a chance to succeed. As a leader, you have to evaluate your leadership style and ask yourself: Is my style hindering the success of this company? If you tend to lean on the micro-manage, command and control approach to managing people, you’re in trouble.

Stage 3 demands that you start letting go and start bringing your key people into the fold. Many companies never make it past Stage 3 – the revolving door starts early. If you hire smart, capable people, but don’t allow them to be smart or capable, they will leave. Wouldn’t you?
Put yourself in their shoes. Tap into the intelligence of every single person in your company. They will help you reach Stage 4.

This article, derived from content created by FlashPoint!, is based on the 7 Stages of Growth concepts developed by the Origin Institute and James Fischer. It was contributed by Jacqueline Sousa, a certified Growth Curve Specialist and regional director of the Florida SBDC at FIU.


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