I’ve often said there are four phases in the growth of an interior design firm, from startup to mature business. These are:
- Managing Yourself (Startup phase)
- Managing Projects and Clients (Early growth phase)
- Managing Employees (Sustained growth phase)
- Managing Systems (Mature business phase)
While much attention is paid by the business press to the early phases—how one can take a mere idea and turn it into a profitable venture—less attention is turned toward the latter phases, much less the critical “steps” between each phase.
The natural inclination of the entrepreneur is, of course, to work harder! But a consulting firm called TrueSpace did extensive research and found that there are five conditions firms must meet in order to avoid missteps. There research was based on nearly 2,500 firms with revenues as low as $2 million that were trying to scale up.
The principal of TrueSpace, Joe Daly said, “After you get to the post-start-up phase, you have to fundamentally recreate the business. That’s what begins to create the conditions for the next leap in growth.”
The five “conditions” Daly discovered are organizational alignment, operating discipline, predictability of performance, endurance of stakeholders, and value creation.
Obviously it would take a book to fully explain these labels, and it doesn’t appear to me that the TrueSpace principals have created one. They do offer a paid assessment as a part of their consulting services, but I don’t know enough about the process to recommend it. Still, it couldn’t hurt to review their website at www.truespace.com.
If you want my quick and dirty—combining my four stages with their five conditions, I’d say these are the take-aways:
- You must be very focused on a well understood niche;
- You must have the “organizational alignment” and “operating discipline” so that every material action you and others in your firm take adhere to this niche and do not water the niche down;
- You must have your KPIs (key performance indicators), OKRs (objectives and key results) or other measurement systems to know if you are on track to your goals.
- You must know who your “stakeholders” are, and that often includes more than just you! They didn’t say “shareholders,” but “stakeholders” meaning that it could include employees, vendors, customers, and more.
- You must understand how value is created, whether it’s through an increasing sales and profit level, or a valuable personal brand.
Think about your practice and try to determine what stage you find yourself in. This is not a matter of how many years you’ve been at it, but simply where you fall on these scales. And then, think about whether you might have missed a step. Feeling burned out and overwhelmed would be a good clue that that is the case.