By Denise Limato

Today’s healthy business economy has fueled exponential growth for some companies. Are you prepared to scale your internal processes to handle the demands placed by such growth?

Growing pains are universal across all companies. Processes and procedures that achieve the desired end result when a company is small work only because the small volume allows it. When staff are stretched to the limit to meet the multiple demands they face, they do what they can to make things function, even if it isn’t necessarily efficient or effective. As companies grow, paper and people centric processes typically begin to fail. There is simply too much volume to keep doing things in the old “stubby pencil” way. The pressures on staff, lack of infrastructure, and limited resources only add to the frustration.

I call this the Wet Paper Towel Syndrome.

I named this syndrome after an old advertisement. To demonstrate its product strength, a well-known paper towel brand once advertised someone stacking coins on a wet paper towel. They stacked quite a few, thus “proving” the strength of the towel. A growing company demonstrates success in much the same way. As the business expands, the company stacks more “coins” on their wet paper towel. The problem is, most companies continue stacking coins until, inevitably, the paper towel rips wide open.

I have worked with several companies experiencing exponential growth. It’s exciting, but that kind of growth is risky if the company doesn’t make the necessary changes to accommodate their new size and changing needs. Just like the wet paper towel, the company can handle only so many “coins.” It will hold two, three, maybe even ten coins before it breaks. But when it breaks—and it will—there is a sizeable mess to clean up. To further complicate matters, we don’t know what that breaking point will be until it happens.

What are the consequences of operating with a wet paper towel? I have witnessed many: lost revenue, lack of compliance with contract requirements, labor relations problems, missed deadlines, unhappy customers and employees, and even fines. In some cases, the consequences have been more extreme, including the violation of labor or safety laws. Ultimately, the cost is time and money, something all of us would like to have more of, but can’t afford to have less.

So, what can be done? If the Wet Paper Towel Syndrome is alive and well at your company, the first step is acknowledging it. Being brave and toughing it out isn’t likely to fetch the results you desire. Instead, it’s time to say, “I need some help.”

While some companies find they have an internal resource that can tackle this issue, most companies decide that’s not the most prudent choice. More often, companies choose an experienced consultant to help make the necessary changes.

A consultant understands how to properly map processes and help prioritize the changes that bring the best return on your investment. A consultant is also objective, with no internal relationships or biases that might affect their ability to make decisions. They have the resources needed to help your business, whether it’s temporary assistance in a particular functional area, project management, or actual execution until an internal resource can be fully trained. A consultant alleviates the burden on your already overloaded staff by jumping in, quickly identifying the most important steps to take, and then driving those steps to results.  The investment typically pays for itself and then some.

Once you tackle these challenges and are moving to the next stage, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for your growth. And, your coins won’t be all over the floor.

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