Everything breaks in 3’s and 10’s
This is something I was reminded of when we recently attended the Institute of Directors Women’s Leadership Conference in Belfast to celebrate International Women’s Day.
The reminder was delivered by Sophie Cornish, founder of www.notonthehighstreet.com who was part of a panel discussing how businesses can go from good to great. She talked about this advice and how it had been one of the most useful things she had learned throughout her experience.
The idea was first floated by Phil Libin – founder of Evernote as part of an interview the completed with author, Tim Ferriss for his book, Tools of Titans: The tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world class performers.
From the book:
He was the first employee at Rakuten, now they’ve got 10,000 or more. He said when you’re just one person, everything kind of works. You sort of figure it out. And then, at some point, you have three people, and now, things are kind of different. Making decisions and everything with three people is different. But you adjust to that. Then, you’re fine for a while. You get to 10 people, and everything kind of breaks again. You figure that out, and then you get to 30 people and everything is different, and then 100 and then 300 and then 1,000.
The essence of this is that whatever stage of development a business is at, it should be thinking about the structures and processes that are required for the next stage of your development.
Things break at multiples of 3 and powers of 10.
If you’re 30 people now, what do you need to do to make sure things still work when you reach 100 people?
If you’re 300 people now, what do you need to do to make sure things still work when you reach 1000 people?
Making growth easier to manage
By investing in the development of structures and processes before they are actually needed it makes managing growth a lot easier.
As you bring new people onto your team the new systems and processes are just adopted like they’ve been there all the time.
It’s only the existing team where there is a requirement to manage the move from existing processes to the new way of doing things.
If, on the other hand, you wait until a lot of new people are on board then the job becomes a lot harder.
Everyone’s got busier managing a bigger workload using systems and processes that are creaking under the pressure – making management of the required change much more difficult and painful for everyone involved.
The essence of Flowlens
This resonates with us because it’s the work we’re engaged with on a daily basis with our customers.
The nature of our work means we’re lucky to work with companies that are growing – and growing quickly – and this brings inevitable pressures on structures, systems and processes which have grown and developed organically as the business has grown.
Thinking about the problem in the way that is was framed by Phil Libin is a useful way of trying to understand what you need to do next.
Our systems in action
Paul Lavery, CFO at Lowe: “Flowlens has completely revolutionised how we manage and process sales orders, purchase orders, and asset management while at the same time vastly improving our ability to cost jobs and improve our customer service and retention.
Flowlens was absolutely key in our ability to attain and maintain our ISO Quality standards and the annual reviews they require.”