Chris DeJong, founder and chairman of Big Blue Swimming Schoolis a five-time U.S. National Champion swimmer.
I’m a big believer in companies that are growing fast, but at the same time, a business leader needs to be able to keep their finger on the pulse of the customer experience or they risk losing what made that growth possible in the first place. You need a growth strategy that maintains quality while enabling quantity. This may sound complicated, but it can be reduced to four principles. Packaged together, this simple strategy can be replicated at almost every level of your business, from the C-suite to the ground floor.
1. Have a flexible vision.
As the leader of the organization you are the guardian of the vision of the company. Your job is to share this vision with others and inspire them with the possibilities of the future to create a buy-in of the company. But it is important that your vision remains flexible.
In the early stages of business, focus on hiring great people. Not good people – great people. Good people will follow your vision to the letter, but great people will have their own opinions about how things should be done, which is what you need to help grow your business. Flexibility in your vision means that you are willing to share the vision with others who want to make their mark.
A flexible vision has several advantages. Individuals can work on what they want to work on, which can sometimes be an even more powerful motivator than compensation alone. This in turn leads to more job satisfaction and a better quality of work. As Daniel Pink says in his book Motive“People have an innate inner urge to be autonomous, self-determined and connected. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and lead richer lives.”
2. Create a unified core.
Your team should have the autonomy to pilot their own ships, but as a leader it is your responsibility to make sure those ships move in the same direction and in a coordinated manner.
The most effective way to do this is to establish a core mission and set of values. These will act as an organizational compass and help teams make business decisions independently, while keeping everyone going to the same destination. Without this connecting center, your organization will grow in so many different directions that it will tear itself apart.
The mission statement should be inspiring but also broad enough so that others can see their own personal values reflected in it. This creates core values that people want to live up to every day instead of a set of rules that feel more like obligations.
3. Grow your culture.
What comes out of adhering to your organization’s mission and day-to-day procedures is your corporate culture. Culture is not something a leader can dictate; it happens naturally, based on your own execution of what you intended to do. In many ways it is the first piece of new growth for a company.
The best way to protect this culture is to look for culture additions rather than culture adaptations. Attempting to keep the culture the same stifles future growth for the organization and for those within the organization you want to see flourish. So lean on your vision for the company’s future. Try imagining how you can add to your culture and help it grow and get better, rather than trying to maintain a stagnant status quo.
4. Scale for experience.
This framework of flexibility, built around a guiding core mission, is also the key to repeating a high-quality customer experience without the risk of getting old. The fundamental framework establishes expectations for interacting with customers, while still leaving room for interpretation.
For example, we continuously work with instructors on our curriculum, providing a basic framework to work within. Not only does this give them ownership, but it also gives them the ability to customize lessons in a way they feel is most effective for the unique needs of their students. We’ve also applied this concept to technology, enabling our franchisees to roll out the flexible scheduling system that parents are used to. This provides franchisees with the tools to create schedules that meet the unique needs of their customers while maximizing returns for themselves and investors.
When your business is experiencing rapid growth, you need to make many split-second decisions that have a long-lasting impact. If you have a strong core mission to act as your guide, and if you give your team the flexibility to make their own decisions while following that same guide, your ship will sail itself into smoother waters in no time.