CEO Corner: Growing Doesn’t Have To Be As Painful As You Think
Two thousand and fourteen. A new year. For some it is time for a new plan. For all it is an opportunity for a fresh start on goals and aspirations. For Advantage Media Group, 2014 marks the start of our ambitious company-wide plan: The Road to 1,000. Simply put, our entire organization is galvanized around the goal of growing to serve 1,000 authors per year by December 31, 2018. To give some perspective, Advantage published nearly 100 books in 2013. Growing to 1,000 means we will multiply our organization ten times, in 5 years, while maintaining high levels of quality, care, and author-centric service.
I am a big fan of Good to Great author Jim Collins, who has written extensively about the concept of a BHAG, also known as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. What massive, overarching aim can you create in your organization that will reinvigorate everyone toward something remarkable? This is a must for 2014 if your organization doesn’t already have one.
As I began floating the “1,000” idea with folks internally, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I got some blank stares. Mostly however, I got a response that sounded like this “I am in and onboard but we gotta fix some things if we are going to get there.” As I kept note on what those “fixes” were, I found that most fell into the category of technology, systems and processes. To get to 1,000 authors, a lot will have to happen. It begins with creating replicable and automated (when possible) systems and processes that can drive a business.
Last year, Advantage made significant investments in technology to help organize, systematize, and streamline our business. Last May we launched Salesforce.com company-wide. It has taken us the better part of 6 months to get the system configured properly. It has taken hundreds of hours of training and implementation work. I am certain it has caused more than a few gray hairs, not just for me. The result is one system for every team member that runs our CRM, Project Management, and ERP. All major business processes are automated and now run through Salesforce, making reports and data visibility a breeze. Every person in the company has a login and is expected to use the system daily. ALL information is in one place for any team member to access.
When I was sharing our growth plans with our Board of Advisors, they all harped on the idea of “operations.” Not a single board member was worried that our marketing and sales team couldn’t grow us to 1,000. Their primary concern was making sure we are growing our operational capacity today so we NEVER have to take the pedal off the gas on the marketing and sales side of the house. They were quick to point out that telling a good salesperson to “slow down” is the most demoralizing thing you could possibly do.
The difference between entrepreneurs and small business owners is a pre-occupation with growth. Entrepreneurs focus every day upon growing the enterprise. Small business owners are okay with the status quo assuming it provides a comfortable life. Advantage, and the magazine which bears its name, is centered on serving entrepreneurs. I challenge you to create your BHAG and gather your team around it. Then invest in technology platforms to automate your business. Doing this minimizes growing pains and sets the foundation to make 2014 your best year yet.