Growth Stages Operations

You’re growing fast – that’s great. Just make sure you are putting systems and processes in place.

NeoBroadband, a broadband communications business, sells equipment to cable companies. The Miami-based business’s market is Latin America.

The executive team, which launched the small business about five years ago, has more than 50 years of combined experience in the industry. That’s because the founders all came from another company in the industry that had closed. “We knew the business and we knew how to work together,” said Gloria Martinez, CEO of NeoBroadband.

NeoBroadband now has more than 50 employees, with about 37 of them based in Miami. “We have grown about 25 percent every year. It’s a lot and a lot of work. We want to keep growing in a healthy way,” said Martinez.

NeoBroadband is an example of a company in a high-growth stage, says Shelly Bernal, a consultant with Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within FIU’s College of Business. “High-growth stage companies have identified a product or service that they can sell profitably at a price point where there is a high demand for it and the model has been proven. They are on a high-growth projectory. “

High-growth companies are moving fast, they are hiring people, cash is coming in but they are realizing as they grow beyond a certain size, it does require structures, processes and procedures, Bernal said.

“NeoBroadband is growing at an extremely fast clip and is impressively successful. They have continued to add structure and processes, sort of like a continuous improvement program, into their organization,” said Bernal, who advises NeoBroadband. “The fundamentals of structuring with processes and operations and workflow, those concepts are not natural to anybody. Even if you are a natural leader, and you have a natural business, this piece is really not going to be natural.”

The good news: “This is something we know well, and we can coach a company not on what to do but educate them on best practices that are done elsewhere and they can tailor it to fit with their own culture,” said Bernal.

Structures and processes are critical to continued growth, and many times companies don’t know what they actually need, said Kiomara Hidalgo, a consultant with Florida SBDC at FIU specializing in staffing and talent. “What company policies do they have in place to properly manage their people? Companies will not be able to grow if the CEO is running everything. You have to have the systems in place,” she said.

Hidalgo recommends growth-stage companies:

  • Have a partnership agreement in place. It’s a good $500 spent to go to a lawyer and get it done,” she said.
  • Create job descriptions, which will help the management better performance manage their employees. Furthermore, Higalgo says, companies need to rationally define the job and whether it should be hourly or salary. She says she see far too much misuse of independent contractors that should be employees, leading to a financial risk for the company.
  • Begin creating an employee handbook. Have a procedure for terminating an employee, including how to manage the discussions with the employee and document the misconduct.

Besides those that apply to human resources, good processes and procedures help a business keep up with change, foresee customer defections, serve as key profitability or revenue indicators, identify product development obstacles and more, said Jacqueline Sousa, regional director of Florida SBDC at FIU. For example, setting aside time once a week to review the company’s finances and key financial indicators is a process. Establishing a method to track customer complaints – and for responding to those complaints — is a process, too.

The good news is that business owners don’t need to – nor should they – focus on everything at the same time, Sousa said. What to focus on and how to prioritize depends on the size and complexity of the business. During those early stages, owners often need to focus on creating the right company culture. This may mean having processes and procedures that help ensure good communication among personnel. In later stages, when the business owner really needs to be more of a visionary, it may mean creating processes and procedures that force disruption within the company so that, for example, the business model is routinely challenged.

Martinez, of NeoBroadband, said Florida SBDC at FIU consultants have been helping her company with finance, HR, structuring the company for growth and marketing.

Says Martinez, “When you see the whole picture, there is always room to learn.”

Please send GrowBiz topic suggestions and feedback to SBDC@FIU.EDU


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