Growth Management: Balancing Employees and Workload

Managing growth is a challenge for every entrepreneur that can either put you on the road to success or derail you into failure before your time. The critical balance of having the right amount of employees to service your clients well while leaving a little bandwidth to jump on a new opportunity can be tricky to find. Hit it right and your team is busy, but not overwhelmed. Hit it wrong and you have a workforce spread too thin or worse, find yourself burning through reserves by paying costly overhead for people who don't have enough to do.

Outsourced staff can be a great strategy to help you get through short-term bursts of activity without having to make a long-term investment in additional overhead. If that short-term burst can be parlayed into a bigger opportunity, investing in the right team could be the wisest move. So how does an entrepreneur decide who, what and when?

Understand your business cycles: Reactionary planning rarely turns out well. Take a thoughtful look at your business history and patterns to determine when a flurry of opportunity could actually be a new phase of growth and if you already have the resources in place to take it on or are in need of more. Does your business tend to be project- or retainer-based? Are there seasonal shifts or is the workflow fairly even? Have your client relationships hit their apex or is there potential for growth? Is your team working evenly and at capacity or are certain employees overwhelmed while others seem to have way too much free time? Armed with this knowledge you'll be in a better place to determine what comes next.

Cultivate a network of extended talent and specialists: There are few things more frustrating than losing an exciting business opportunity because you are at capacity. It is a worthwhile use of time to cultivate relationships with freelance talent who can step in seamlessly and who, for the right opportunity, might become a permanent member of the team or buy you valuable time while you find a full-time resource to transition in. This phased approach can allow you to jump on an immediate opportunity and grow your team.

Take calculated risks: Sometimes you come across someone with a skill set that overlaps with your core business but who brings knowledge to the table that could add value for existing clients and/or open the door to new opportunities. Investment in this kind of talent at the right time can help diversify your offering and open new doors to growth. The key is that the person brings skills relevant to your existing business and that the new offering feels complimentary to what you already provide. If you are a branding firm suddenly offering legal services, even if your clients need them, it probably won't pan out. But adding social media strategy to digital development makes perfect sense.

At the end of the work day, make sure to look out for the team working with you, helping your entrepreneurial dreams become a reality. With a solid strategy in place, your next surge in business or unexpected low won't be as troubling. What additional growth management techniques have you used to maintain a healthy work/employee balance?