We doubled our staff overnight: How to manage an explosion in business growth

Cam Northway

Cam Northway, Founder & MD, Sweet&Chilli

Businesses often experience growing pains when their success requires them to expand their workforce. If not managed well, the business can be held back by inefficiencies, costly mistakes, existing employees leaving and clients feeling the stress.

However, it is possible to grow in a way that brings your team and clients along for the journey and encourages long-term growth, rather than a short and unsustainable spike.

Five years ago, my drinks consultancy business, Sweet&Chilli doubled its staff overnight. And we managed to maintain a high staff retention, which is pretty rare in the hospitality industry.

Here are the key areas that I found that you must focus on in order to make sure your growth is not short-lived:

Look for inefficiencies

A lack of automation in your business is a like filling a swimming pool using a bucket with a small hole in it. You will eventually fill the pool with water, but it will require a massive amount of energy, time and lots of waste. You must find and use a more efficient way. While hiring new staff brings extra work in the early stages of their employment, they do have the added bonus of being fresh eyes. Be sure to utilise your new hires by encouraging them to question how things are done and to point out any inefficiencies that they might see. Ask them, “Do you think there is a quicker way to do this, or are you seeing any double-ups in this process?”

Systems, systems, systems

Do not underestimate the importance of having clear and easy to follow systems in place. Business systems have the ability to reduce costs, improve productivity and boost your bottom line by producing a consistently high-quality of work. This may come in the form of an orientation booklet for new staff or a complete policies and procedures manual. It is vital that you are able to provide a clear and easy to follow picture of how you do things so that others can take over some of those tasks and maintain the high standard that you set for your business. You will be limited in your business growth if you’re the only person who knows how things work!

Focus on culture

When managing rapid growth, it is important that your new employees settle in quickly. In order to facilitate this, you must get your culture right. Don’t let growth change or impact  your culture, and make sure your new hires can fit in with your existing culture and team.

Be available

Being available may seems like an impossible task when your business is experiencing rapid growth, and you are likely the one responsible for managing that growth. However, during growth periods your team and clients need to feel that you are still available and approachable. In order to achieve this, you may need to implement a set time in each day when your staff can come to you with non-urgent queries, or you may need to bring a PA onboard. Whatever you do, you must find a way to be available to your team and clients, and make a point of checking in with them regularly.

Empower your employees and put them first

The best way to ensure your customers are happy and satisfied during growth periods is to have happy and motivated employees. A team that feels valued and respected will have a vested interest in providing the very best service to your customers. You can teach someone about your business but you cannot teach them to care about your customers – they will do that naturally when they understand they are valuable to you. Be sure to give credit where credit is due. Great leadership is shining the spotlight on your team who are excelling in times of high stress and change.

Also be sure to continue providing opportunities for professional development, training, and personal growth for your employees. This can’t fall to the side when you are in a period of intense growth, and it will help retain and motivate your employees and also provide greater value for your clients.

 Bring in a financial expert

As your business grows there are more moving parts, making it more difficult to stay on top of the finances. Calculations that were once done in your head now require a better and more focused approach that can be outsourced to a financial expert who can manage cash flows, be objective, and analyse the health of your financials. Not only will it save you time and money but working with the right expert will also help you to scale your business for even more growth in the future.

It’s normal to feel some growing pains when your business is growing at a rapid pace, but if there is a lack of consistency, systems, processes, outsourcing and customer care, then your growth will be much more stressful than required and even short lived.

About the author

Cam Northway is the founder and Managing Director of Sweet&Chilli Australia, New Zealand and LA, along with being co-founder of new 2018 Chef’s Hat award winner Bondi bar and restaurant, Rocker. His ventures also include the soon-to-be-launched online home delivery business, Cocktail Porter, and part owning a London Pub.

For the past eighteen years Cam has immersed himself in the world of hospitality, including international experience working in multiple awarded restaurants and bars along with celebrity clients including Prince Harry, The Rolling Stones and Kanye West and major brands such as Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, Red Bull, Schweppes and Hyatt.