MT Expert: How to deal with super-rapid growth

You've got your business off the ground and it is growing faster than your wildest dreams. How to you keep speeding along without it all coming off the rails? Entrepreneur Tom Box shares his experience...

by Tom Box
Last Updated: 28 Jun 2013

It’s every new company’s dream to be able to choose which projects to take on rather than frantically cold-calling prospects to keep the business afloat. However, start-ups and growing companies often have to walk a fine line between pushing to grow and making sure they don’t grow beyond their means too quickly. 

Be adaptable: A fast-growing business needs to react to change quickly, which requires fast decision making. When working on new business projects, we often have to turn around pitches in 24 hours. So, rather than one person creating a document and sending it around for edits, we create collaborative documents in the cloud. This allows multiple brains to work on the same document together, to develop concepts and ideas in real-time. Not only does this allow us to shape and perfect the pitch as we go, it also eradicates the issue of having multiple versions of the same document, making the whole creative process a lot less stressful. 

Get organised: A creative mind might often overlook the benefits of being organised, but this is key when juggling projects and managing deadlines. When planning a programme, our production team makes a plan that everyone can see in shared cloud documents so that we can keep track of what needs to be completed when. This makes complicated planning a lot simpler, as it allows everyone to add comments and inform different teams when schedules change.

Maintain the company ethos: As you grow, don’t become detached from the reasons you started the business in the first place. Having grown from four founders to 120 staff in just 13 years, we’ve placed a big emphasis on keeping a close and friendly working environment, so that staff feel they are always a valid member of the team and not just a cog in the business machine.   

Invest in graduate talent: Fast-growing businesses often find it difficult to recruit enough staff with the right skills in order to take on new business projects. In fiercely competitive industries like animation and visual effects, the skills pool is very small, which makes it difficult to compete with the big players who can poach talent with the offer of higher salaries. To combat this problem, we decided to invest in our graduates, building on their skills sets and training them up to manage projects. This also means we keep staff churn to a minimum as employees are given the opportunity to progress and can be promoted quickly.   

Plan for the worst: With one in three businesses failing within the first three years, the odds are stacked against you. Fast-growing businesses often have to contend with clients going into administration and being unable to pay for work, so it is important to keep surplus money as a safety reserve. 

Don’t over complicate key parts of the business, especially IT: By moving our IT to the cloud with communication and collaboration suite Google Apps for Business, we can add new users at the click of a button. We also don’t need to be experts with all the typically expensive burdens, like server upgrades and IT maintenance.

Broaden staff skill sets: Give your team the opportunity to try different disciplines and broaden their knowledge of the industry. This will help the business manage the workload and keep employees motivated. We’ve added a competitive and creative element to new business projects by getting staff to compete with each other to suggest the best ideas even if it’s not their primary area of expertise. This means we’re not only able to put together pitches more quickly by crowdsourcing ideas, but also we can identify those individuals who have hidden talents.  

 

Tom Box is the cofounder of Blue Zoo Animation Studio

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