Specializing Your Way to Growth
Gina Solomon . January 28, 2016
Many of us have been there before: you join a small growing firm and, as the company grows, you are asked to take on more and more responsibilities. It is an act of survival. There are simply not enough bodies to go around to cover everything that needs to be done. So, out of necessity, you become a jack-of-all-trades, doing things you never dreamed you would be doing, just to make sure the company succeeds.
Before you know it, your proverbial work “backpack” is stuffed to the brim with tasks and responsibilities, some of which you are really good at – and some of which you are doing simply to fill a gap in expertise or resources “for the time being.”
However, at some point in the business cycle, this act of survival―done solely with growth in mind― becomes one of the largest impediments to growth. Working with our clients, we’ve found that one of the true balancing acts of growing is identifying when to shift from a generalist culture to one that is more specialized. We call this exercise “unpacking your backpack.”
UNPACKING YOUR EMPLOYEES’ “BACKPACKS”
As firms grow from small to medium-sized and beyond, having the ability to manage the wide range of tasks in your employees’ “backpacks” becomes not only more difficult, but also increasingly less efficient for the company as a whole.
For example, if you have one individual who is responsible for both sales and client service (which is typical in smaller asset management firms), that individual may be forced to make a decision between selling and servicing – both of which should be a priority (we’ve covered more on the topic of separating sales from client service in our blog titled Creating a Client-Centered Organization).
SIMPLIFYING TO GROW
Truly unpacking, and by that we mean in way that allows your business to set a foundation for growth, requires a lot more than just understanding what everyone is doing, identifying the overlaps and redrawing responsibilities. It requires a handful of steps designed to not only understand what resources should be specialized, but why, and to what end.
Step One: Develop a strategic plan [link to strategic planning part of the site] to understand where you are now, where you want to be, and the time line you think it will take you to get from point A to point B
Step Two: Determine what resources you need to get from point A to point B and how they differ from the resources you currently have. Do you have the right people in the right seats? Where are the gaps and overlaps?
Step Three: Dissect responsibilities across the firm, including identifying where there are overlaps and where there is both affinity and talent. Which responsibilities does it make sense to group together and which should be separated?
Step Four: Lay out the roadmap to transform resources from the current generalist structure to the right level of specialization for your growth plans.
Determining when to start this process isn't entirely straightforward. No one organization is the same and - despite similar products, industries and even sizes - when and how to initiate change tends to be very organization specific. For example, a firm's growth prospects (whether through organic success or industry trends) and the firm's willingness to initiate and embrace change will all play into timing.
Contact us to see how we can help you grow. (link to contact page)