How you grow a company isn’t something you can find in a textbook. It is found in real life interaction and intent. Allied Equipment recently changed our email server for the better. Like most things you do to grow a company, this came along with some growing pains. I had to completely reorganize my inbox and filing system. As I opened an account I previously thought had been turned off, I found a new email. Enter the email that inspired this post.
It was from a student who has followed this blog. They asked me about Allied Equipment’s organizational strategy and change since I joined the company. Below is my response:
Our organizational strategy in the last five and a half years has changed quite a bit. We used to be lean and based on survival. Each person owned a set of skills that allowed him or her to be more affluent in one area or another, so we gravitated to that person doing that particular task. We basically looked like a bunch of Venn Diagrams. One person may be doing accounting and advertising. Another would be doing production and sells. In the middle, we all overlapped and did a little of each
So, how did we grow a company by more than 1000% in five years? We started with our people. In the beginning, our growth created the need to divest. I personally tried applying Pareto’s Principle and focus on only the 20% of the things that achieved 80% of the results we needed to grow a company. Then I had 80% of my day left to fill with new assignments and responsibilities. It has come back to bite me now, as I try to focus on what I’m best at but find myself overloaded with diverse tasks. Delegation has become my biggest focus.
In terms of the organization as a whole, we’ve been forced to become more specialized. Structure has become a big part of our organization, not because we want to model ourselves after a cumbersome large company, but because we must get the most out of our people. If two people are focused on the same task it is redundant and frustrating. You wouldn’t believe how many arguments have come to my office over people’s assignments. I find that the frustration doesn’t lie in the assignments; however, it lies in the person’s perceived worth to the company. This is because each person needs to feel that they are essential to the organization and that they have an opportunity to contribute. If we as leaders expect everyone to buy in, we must provide them opportunity to contribute to the company’s overall performance. When one person loses a responsibility they tend to feel like a failure. As a leader, filling that void with something more fulfilling and challenging is my job. I must force my people to rise with me. They must leave behind old responsibilities and stretch for new ones.
This being the case, I personally find myself fighting the Law of the Lid. Your people will never be able to rise higher than their leader. As such, if I personally am a six, my people can never become more than a five. We’d be an average company. It is my job as a leader to first, grow myself then return and equip my people with the tools and opportunities to grow themselves. I must become a catalyst to growth. It is only when I raise the lid that my people can raise the lid. As they grow and move up, so too will Allied Equipment. If I can become an eight and my people a seven, we will be exceedingly above average.
So how has this affected our Organizational Strategy and how have we changed?
We first understand that doing the same things we’ve always done will only get us to where we’ve always been. In order to grow a company, we must first grow and change our people. For the first time in our existence, I have created an education account. We actually have a budget devoted to sending our people to seminars and conferences. The biggest change has been from a task- oriented company to a people-oriented company. It is only after investing in our people that our company has grown.
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