It is an interesting quandary. Ask any entrepreneur what they want, and surely the response will be “business growth”. Quite rightly too. Growth is crucial to the long-term survival of any business. Conversely, stagnating is likely to lead to missed opportunities. However, if that growth is too quick, the result can actually be the opposite. Often, in these surges of growth, key elements of the business can be overlooked, and after the period of growth has subsided, the business is fundamentally weaker than it was previously.
Managing these periods of rapid growth is clearly an important issue, and one that entrepreneur Audrey Gelman is only too aware of. She recently recounted a particular issue she faced as CEO. One of the core goals of her company was diversity. Something which in many ways was a success. The mission was to build a community network for women to gather and connect, and under her guiding hand, the company experienced real growth. Ever the perfectionist though, she comments that through these periods of growth, not enough focus was put on diversity and inclusion, highlighting gaps where more focus could have been put on diverse hiring practices and inclusion training.
Therein lies the key to success. Acknowledging, even just personally, areas where you did not succeed, addressing them, and moving forward a better person, a better leader, will undoubtedly result in sustainable growth.
That’s precisely what Audrey Gelman did. Along with her team, she conducted tours of their spaces and truly listened to what staff and community members felt needed to change. As a result of these discussions, a formal culture code was created, and the leadership team adjusted to include more women of color.
This experience isn’t out of the ordinary. Many fast-growing companies experience similar issues. What sets it apart is the response of its leaders. A lesson for us all in honesty, transparency, listening to others, and proactiveness.