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These days, the term “scale” is used in business circles like “Namaste” is used yoga classes. It’s everywhere! And most often it refers to being on the upswing, on a growth trajectory or in all-out business beast mode.
But there’s another side to scaling, and that dimension is the softer side of growth. Scaling back doesn’t have to mean a business is on a downward slope or decline; instead, it can signal that a business experienced the equivalent of an annual physical and needs to reprioritize to stay healthy.
Here are some scenarios we encounter at BELAY where clients need help scaling in a more measured manner:
Your vision outsized your need to execute.
When you envisioned your startup, you imagined all roles within every function on the organizational chart completely staffed. You were going to have operations, HR, legal, technology, finance, accounting and business development departments – each with its own clerical or administrative lead. However, months or years down the line, your business is still on the upswing, but the need for a big-league staff isn’t. You planned to hire robustly, but have found you can achieve all that you need with a leaner machine.
You faced a budget buster.
Everything was going smoothly, until your pocketbook was drained by an unexpected expense. You may have created detailed budgets, knowing where every dollar, cent and charge was going. You may have even developed contingency plans. But maybe you didn’t plan for the five-figure surprise you just paid. As a result, you’re taking a hard look at your staffing pattern. And you’re realizing that the full-time workforce of bookkeepers and administrative assistants must give way to more flexible, scaled-back alternatives that will help refill your coffers.
Your needs didn’t necessitate the staffing.
When you originally drafted the master plan for your business, you just knew every manager or exec would have his or her own administrative assistant. After all, these were busy folks with full schedules, lots of meetings, ongoing travel, and multiple high-level projects. So you hired multiple on-site executive assistants, only to find that the decision was premature and ill thought-out. Why? Because they are duplicating tasks, doubling efforts and even resting on their laurels, asking for tasks to fill the time or even creating busywork to appear occupied.
You had a high-performing professional but a low amount of work.
Let’s say you hired an all-star administrative assistant who was precisely what you thought the business needed. She was uber-punctual; she came to the table with no shortage of smart ideas; and she exceeded the minimum qualifications of the role upon hire. You brought her onto your team feeling assured that she would meet the current needs of the business – and even push things forward, with excellence. The problem is that you hired her with the best intentions, only to realize there’s not enough work to occupy 40-plus hours of her time each week. There is still administrative work that needs to get done, but the volume of it is closer to just a few hours a week vs. a full-time level of output. Now you are faced with tough choices, like letting her go, drastically changing the conditions of her employment, or starting all over.
Your staff has other things to do.
You have a solid team, and they’re hitting all their marks. Surely you could just assign each of them a few extra administrative tasks, right? It shouldn’t take up much of their time, no? Think again. Many businesses have had to catch their bearings after trying to resolve their task and project needs in this manner. Sharing tasks among existing teams – when they already have key areas of responsibility – is not usually a good solution, in the short-term or for the long haul. Inevitably, something falls through the cracks, people get frustrated or burned out, strategy falls to the wayside, or feelings get hurt.
Maybe your workforce needs a revolution? Going remote might be the right option for you and your team. Check out this FREE resource “A Farewell to the Office” for the numbers behind the workforce revolution.