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How to structure a successful small but growing business

There’s a great saying: ‘What got you here won’t get you there’. Many businesses focus on the skills they need right now instead of looking to the future. Sophie Austin explains how your business strategy is key to how you structure your business for future growth.

All businesses, both large and small, benefit from a well-defined organisational structure, in order to accomplish its strategic mission and deliver its objectives.

What’s your business strategy for the future?

Many business owners are busy thinking about the day-to-day running of their business without thinking much about the future. But a business strategy is a vital first step towards structuring your business according to your needs. So – what is your vision for the business and what are you trying to achieve? Increased revenue or profits, enhanced productivity, greater market share, or even entry into a new market?  What about your personal ambitions? Are you looking to be a part of the future of the business or are you planning to exit?

Identify what you need to achieve your strategy

If your strategy is already in place, you need to be clear about the skills and capabilities you need in order to deliver it. If you want to deliver a new product in three years, you might want to start developing that function now. If you plan to exit the business, you need to focus on securing a successor. But regardless of whether you stay or go, it is essential to build a strong leadership team to drive continued growth and ensure the business achieves its goals.

Look at the skills you have

Once you have clarity around the skills you need to deliver your strategy, consider your team, and assess the skills you have currently. What are the critical roles? Where are the gaps? How can you fill these gaps? By training and developing alone, or will you need to recruit new people – or a combination of the two? Who are your current ‘talent’ and how can you create opportunities for them within a new structure?

Do you have the right team in place?

This can be one of the most difficult conversations to have with any business owner. Many will have built up their businesses with a core of key individuals, who are often not just colleagues but friends – and often family members. There is tremendous loyalty both ways, and in the case of family members there are strong emotional connections. Facing the possibility that one or more of their team does not have the skills or profile to be part of the new structure can be incredibly challenging and takes courage to address – but ultimately, your business depends upon you making the right decision. If not, you will not achieve your ambition. Change is not easy.

Do you have time to lead the business?

Another challenge for CEOs is being clear about their own role going forward –understanding what being a CEO involves, and deciding whether they actually want to do that – or remain in an operational role and appoint someone else. This decision is a key step in structuring the business for success. If you are in the CEO role, are you able to step back and empower your leadership team to operate freely, with accountability and responsibility? Do you trust your team?

Is your current structure causing problems?

Are you making all the decisions? Do you have too many direct reports? Do you know what’s going on? Too many or too few direct reports can cause issues: too many reports to manage will impact your effectiveness and too few may suggest a bottleneck in the organisation. There is no right answer in terms of numbers of direct reports, as this depends on many factors; however, aiming between 4-7 is likely to be manageable.

Are processes in place for people management?

It is not uncommon for many small businesses to have very little in the way of formal people processes or policies because so far, they haven’t needed any! Sustained and rapid growth changes this, and businesses can very suddenly find themselves in need of infrastructure to manage recruitment, performance, training and development, reward and recognition for their expanding workforce – all whilst ensuring that the culture of the organisation remains strong and true to its roots.

People processes ensure that employees are engaged at work, with objectives, support and training. Individual objectives provide everyone with a clear link to the business goals and enable them to see what they contribute to the wider organisation. Line management training is a key investment in creating an engaging environment for employees. Without support, newly appointed managers may struggle with those sometimes tricky conversations about performance or giving feedback, and the impact can be huge. The earlier you get these processes in place, the easier they are to implement and the easier it will be to manage growth.

Properly organising a company can help it streamline operations, improve decision making, operate in multiple locations, increase sales and customer service, and boost employee performance and creativity. So it is vital that business owners and managers understand the importance and benefits of a good structure.

And this is where People Puzzles can really make a difference to your business. If you need help articulating your strategy, structuring your business for the future and creating the right environment for your team to deliver, People Puzzles is here to help. Please feel free to complete our free business profiler or drop us an email hello@peoplepuzzles.co.uk.


Sophie Austin
Sophie Austin, HR Director.

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