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The Business Forum
Is Your Business
Suffering Growing Pains?
By David J.
colleague of mine, Rich Martin, used the expression “growing pains” during a
conversation we had recently. I had not heard that expression in a number of
years. In the business world, “growing pains” usually describes inefficiencies
that creep into a business over time until such a point when the cumulative
effects are quite
example, let's look at the Boeing commercial aircraft division back in the
1990's. Boeing's processes hit the wall when annual unit volume hit 600
commercial aircraft. During a 90-day period, Boeing had to stop production and
carefully audit the completion status of each plane as it was no longer clear
what manufacturing processes had been completed and which remained. It was a
huge embarrassment for the company, caused late delivery of aircraft and a
revenue disruption which impacted Boeing stock price. This set-back came just as
Airbus was beginning to take market share from Boeing. It was a very costly and
humbling stumble for Boeing.
pains are almost expected to occur at different revenue plateaus in a business's
evolution. High-tech companies have traditionally considered those plateaus
being a “natural occurrence” at the $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $200 and $500
million dollar revenue levels and again at the $1 billion dollar revenue level.
Companies that enjoyed levels of success relatively rapidly never operationally
planned for their success making “hitting the wall” all the more predictable and
harsh when it occurs. Consider the Boeing example above.
past 4 years, many businesses have downsized and, due to revenue declines and
limited budgets, needed action to optimize their systems and processes around
new, lower revenue levels and lower staffing levels has been deferred. These
companies are doing more with fewer resources with great pain, pretty much
driving those who remain at the company nuts. The
employees are chronically overtaxed, highly stressed and waiting to flee the
company in search of a new opportunity just as soon as they can.
A lot of
smaller businesses, however, never took the time to figure out what they needed
from a process standpoint to efficiently run today's business as well as
tomorrow's business. The owner took the lead and created jobs for
himself/herself and others but left a business largely dependent on him or her.
This imposes severe limitations if there is an opportunity to rapidly expand the
business. When it comes to time to sell those businesses,
there's not much in place that is attractive to a potential buyer in terms of
residual value and business upside undermining years of hard work and goodwill
built over the years.
is more than what it does. For a business to be “in business,” it must have
systems and processes that eliminate people dependencies and allow new people to
join the organization and make a positive impact in short order. This allows for
greater agility and speed. It allows for growth or contraction. And, it's what
makes a business far more valuable should the owner decide to retire or sell.
business have to be brought to its knees from a business execution standpoint
before action can be taken? Absolutely not. My best clients proactively engage
with me to look at these issues.
is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and held senior management positions in Product Development,
Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and
Product Management. He joined Tandem Computers in 1979 where
he was responsible for Corporate Documentation Standards for
Tandem's highly configurable and expandable computer
systems. In 1983, he designed and implemented a
Configuration Guide for Dialogic Systems instituting a
process that greatly simplified a complex, modular product
such that the field sales organization and international OEM
customers could easily define their order requirements. This
methodology satisfied the product definition needs of sales,
marketing, engineering, manufacturing, customer service and
finance. David founded his consulting practice in 1991. He
is a graduate of San Jose State University (BA) and Santa
Clara University (MBA). David is a member of the Society for
the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) and has been Board
Approved in the Area of Configurable Product & Services
Strategy and Implementation. In 2010, he was inducted in the
Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. Out of
over 1,000 consultants who have completed Alan Weiss’s
mentoring program, only 26 have been inducted into the Hall of
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