In 1982, In Search of Excellence was a hand-grenade rolled into a country club.
Their audience? Large American businesses, stodgy and bureaucratic…and getting pummeled by Japanese and other international competition. They showed that excellent companies must have a bias for action. A lesson desperately needed.
At the same time a new breed of hyper-growth entrepreneurs surfaced: Gates, Dell, Jobs. Silicon Valley successes highlighted the action-oriented entrepreneur of the new computer age.
The entrepreneurial bias for action became as celebrated as had been the managerial instincts of the 1950’s Organization Man. Individual achievement over conformist bureaucracy. But the pendulum swung too far in the public imagination. For some entrepreneurs, anti-bureaucracy swung all the way to anti-process rather than pro-simplified-management.
Prioritizing speed and action over management often works well for entrepreneurs while their business is still small, and there are fewer people to profitably coordinate.
What has worked should continue to work, right? Yes, of course…until it doesn’t.
Great entrepreneurs recognize when the ingredients of success will be different at the next stage. (And on-going success is always bumping them up a level. Same game, better competition, and a few new rules.)
Start-ups, micro- and small-businesses must all be highly entrepreneurial. Large companies must develop a bias for action to counteract red-tape tendencies.
But for the in-between — emerging businesses of our size (20-100 employees) — the rules for success are very different. Even counter-intuitive at times.
Every entrepreneur has a healthy fear of becoming that same slow, bureaucratic competitor that provided the opening for his own business to successfully serve customers better and faster.
By instinct or experience, every entrepreneur who has had the guts and energy to build a growth company also has a deeply-embedded bias for action.
A great leader in this next stage must now harness and direct that bias for action, but with a light touch. Bias for action? Definitely. (But differently.)
The action-bias needed now starts with building an effective leadership team. A team that can sync up the whole company to quickly and successfully act on the direction and vision from the top and the changes of customer needs.
At this stage, downshift so you can accelerate. Involve everyone in tackling the three deadly distractions of this stage.
Slow down to speed up.
© 2019 From the Top, LLC
Emerging businesses (20-100 employees) are in the exciting transition from small to mid-size. In some situations, the specific growing pains illustrated here might be similar for smaller or larger fast companies, especially if growing fast.