It’s a fact of life at rapidly growing companies, the last minute rush to get work out the door.

Rapid growth almost inevitably means there are times when you’re selling more than you have the capacity to deliver. Every once in a while this pressure comes to a head. People end up working round the clock to get a project finished or a product ready for release. You feel that incredible sense of passion, determination and achievement as the team comes together to pull it off. 

But, is this really the ways of working that will fuel the growth of your company?

Why your ways of working need to change as you grow

At times leading a rapidly growing company feels a bit like driving a car 50 mph faster than it was designed for. You can do it, but it feels a bit hairy. And if you do it too often, the engine starts to make cranky noises and things start to break.

In the same way, we all know you can push your people for a bit and get away with it. But if you do it too often, you burn people out, errors pile up and your operation starts to unravel.

So how can you recognise the point at which the all-nighters become a cause for concern not a cause for celebration?

As the leader of a rapidly growing business you need to pay close attention to the workflow in your teams. If you’ve got occasional, isolated peaks of activity then you may have an under-performing project manager, but you probably don’t have a systemic issue. 

However, if you’ve got an established cycle of peaks and troughs in productivity, then it’s likely to be your ways or working that need fixing, not the individuals. Systemic issues like these are the things that will really blow up in your face and kill your growth. Ignoring them is akin to ignoring the loud clanging noise and the dusty black smoke coming from your car engine as you speed down the motorway at 90 mph hoping you’ll make the meeting on time.

Developing new ways of working

If you want to grow sustainably, you need to find new ways of working that enable your teams to deliver more work, consistently and at scale. Our advice is not to be tempted to try and copy the management practices you’ve seen in bigger organisations. This will likely slow you down and undermine what’s special about your culture. It’s a bit like putting your teenage kid in their grandparent’s clothes!

Don’t be tempted to copy the management practices of your bigger rivals – it’ll be like putting your teenage kid in their grandparent’s clothes!

Matt Grimshaw, The Pioneers

Instead you need to switch your focus as a business leader from managing individuals to creating and managing a people system. You need to create a structure that sits behind how you execute work so your people know how your organisation sets objectives, co-ordinates work and then reviews and controls its completion. These new ways of working have to fit with your strategy, culture, brand and vision which means that while you might be inspired by stories from other companies, you’ll almost certainly be looking to tailor something unique to your business.