Fast Forward – February 2017

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Ready, Set, Grow

To successfully scale a company, give every function equal attention

When your small business is successful enough to warrant expansion, what’s the best way to scale it? The business gurus at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management say each aspect of the business must be managed simultaneously.

Rather than putting out one fire at a time, or solving problems as they pop up, everything must be tended to, says Ben Jones, a professor of entrepreneurship and strategy who serves as faculty director of the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. “It’s operations, it’s marketing, it’s finance and it’s culture,” he says in a submission to The New York Times’ BrandStudio. “It’s the whole thing.”

Kellogg recently launched a “growth and scaling pathway” targeted to entrepreneurs, family business owners, executives and private equity employees who want to expand their business. Among the lessons shared with participants, Kellogg instructors offer this advice: When you’re building your growth plan and formulating a strategy for smooth expansion, work to first identify pain points where departments might intersect.

Operations Meets Marketing

Marketing teams have the brilliant ideas and the big dreams for a company’s success. If operations can’t—or won’t—deliver on the promises marketing makes, internal struggles can leak out into the public sphere.

Marketing Meets Research and Design

The marketing department shines when it comes to uncovering consumer desires. But if an organization is siloed, a lack of communication between marketing and R&D could prevent the creation of a product or service that the customer actually wants.

Research and Design Meets Finance

R&D sometimes gets the short shrift during scaling operations, as leaders want to funnel crucial dollars to other areas. Conversely, deep devotion to research and design/development can lead to busted budgets.

Finance Meets Operations

Your brilliant idea is getting money thrown at it, but that doesn’t mean you should take it all. Even the smallest of hiccups in a plan to grow bigger can lead to the bottom dropping out and your company declaring bankruptcy.

Operations Meets Culture

When the business is like a family, a distinct culture is formed. The same goes for everyone who was there “when it all began.” But scaling means finding the right person for the job, even if the right person comes with the “wrong mindset.”

To avoid or at least smooth out these speed bumps, be sure to communicate your plans and progress internally, to ensure everyone expresses and adopts common goals within their respective duties. Focus on what your company is good at, and make customer desires your canon. As your business expands, replace individuals with processes, and delegate duties to workers with accompanying incentives.

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