How to keep your culture in the high growth phase

by Stuart Ross of High Growth Global

There is a great quote by Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota Motor: “Trouble results when the speed of growth exceeds the speed of nurturing human resources. To use the analogy of growth rings in a tree, when unusually rapid growth causes the rings to grow abnormally thick, the tree trunk weakens and is easily broken.”

I often work with companies that increase the number of employees rapidly in a short space of time, but in doing so must ensure their “growth rings” do not “grow abnormally thick.” They need to maintain a close-knit start-up culture in order to nurture the very things that made their company successful in the first place – such as company culture, traditions and values.

Here are four tips on how to successfully grow your company while maintaining the winning formula that preserves your company culture:

Recognise Employee Contributions

During the early stages of a company, it is easy to personally praise employees who make substantial contributions, because you bump into them in the kitchen or even share a room with them. As the company grows, keeping up with each employee’s accomplishments becomes much more difficult to track and recognise. It is key to go the extra mile to recognise the achievements of employees and make them feel appreciated. For example, award a bottle of wine and other fun gifts to employees who have exceeded their key performance indictors, in addition to standard bonuses.

Maintain Rigorous Recruitment Standards

Scaling up means that there is a great deal of pressure to recruit quickly. However, if you sacrifice talent and passion for numbers, you will take a hit as the average quality of your workforce declines. Try to maintain the hiring standards you had from the beginning.

Preserve Company Traditions

Traditions create the uniqueness that distinguishes your company from others. The type and strength of company traditions are often the defining factor that sets apart successful companies, thus it is imperative to maintain and develop these valued traditions. For example one of my clients has the tradition of a company-wide meeting every month with bacon sarnies, where a representative from each department presents his or her team’s accomplishments — usually to rounds of applause. This was a tradition they started when the company numbered just 10 people and continues to this day with over 50 employees.

Encourage an Open-Door Policy

During periods of expansion, communication between employees and senior management can be tougher. Even so, a direct line of communication should always be open between employee ranks. Foster an environment that nurtures the fluidity of ideas so that employees feel free to voice their opinions, share their experiences and offer advice.