3 Annoying Questions for Growing Businesses

This week in HR, I was chatting with a business owner about some of the challenges his business is experiencing with respect to scaling.  At the top of his list, after “What is the government going to do next about COVID?” was hiring.  He said – “I can get to a place where I feel fairly confident that we are following all the relevant laws and that we have the right culture, where turnover isn’t my biggest fear.  We are focused on professional development, so the people we have now are doing their jobs.  But we don’t know where we are going to find the skilled people we need so my brother and I don’t have to travel all over the place, managing the minutiae on every single project.”  He elaborated, “Let alone the skilled managers for the next generation of our business as we double our revenue this fiscal cycle.”  He didn’t know who on his teams of people is conscientious enough to take the reins of the more complex projects.  

We continued talking about the problem and I did what I usually do, I assumed they needed my help.  I asked three questions:

  1. Have you mapped your MVV, especially your vision, to your operations and staffing plan?  In other words, if your business is moving in a direction, are your operations and staffing strategically aligned or working against you?
  2. Have you conducted a skills gap analysis?  As in, have you looked at the skills you believe you need today to be most successful / cost-effective and do you know what you might need down the road 6 months from now, 12 months from now?
  3. Have you communicated your plans to employees, and do you have a delegation plan?  What I mean is, do your managers and employees know where you want to go?  And have you tried to delegate at all?

You may not be surprised that he got a little defensive…  So, I started thinking, what is it about those three questions that makes people defensive?

Here’s what I started to see – 
people feel like you don’t think they’re credible, when you ask strategic questions.

As I sensed his enervation rise, I stopped him, “Your business is a machine, growing no matter what, and you’re trying to transition from being an operator to owner.  That will take a lot of strategic thinking and coordination, which takes time and people.  You are in the most enviable position of all; you have options.”  I don’t think business owners are given the level of credit they deserve, and they’re sensitive to being questioned.  They have employees questioning their every move all day, disgruntled, they’re balancing clients and suppliers, payroll and revenue, and now I’m telling them they need to stop, breathe, and answer some annoying questions?

YES!  They must.  They need a clear path ahead. They have got the great privilege of devising a strategy and divining a vision for their company's future.  They’re on the precipice of incredible success, but they’re still worried about who’s cleaning the office?!  Or whether the perquisites for Sales are being properly paid by payroll!  This indicates their staffing plans and operations may not be aligned with any clear strategic vision.

Next week, I’m going to write about what a strategic staffing plan looks like, particularly for growing companies.  But in the meantime, look at the three questions and think about how your business would answer. Think about your business’ Mission, Vision, and Values and consider what kinds of things you’d have to do to get there - the actions and the tactics at the management and line levels. From SHRM regarding line level action / goals / Performance Management:

"Function and unit goals generate programs and specific initiatives—'the ways we will achieve our goals.' For these more-specific activities, the function defines short-term objectives that are specific and time-based (i.e., have endpoints at which time the activity will be assessed)."

If you're a business owner in this exact spot or if you have other HR strategic challenges and you'd like to learn more about how CrescentHR can help you plan for the future, email CrescentHR@crescent-payroll.com.

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