Don’t go it alone. That’s a key message from Tristan Smith, Egencia VP of customer success for small and medium enterprises. Providing pointers for companies looking to grow, she also encourages business leaders to get past any negative connotation around standardizing processes. Doing so frees up employees to focus on the most important things.
Ask any voice assistant who invented the light bulb and it’ll reply, Thomas Edison. What about the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell. And the iPhone? According to the device, that was Steve Jobs. But as Harvard Business Review pointed out, successful enterprises are team efforts. All those entrepreneurs had teams of people working for them, yet the lone entrepreneur myth lives on in the face of business reality. With technology and competition moving fast, leaders need to mix vision with management to put the right resources in place. To serve customers, they need to scale the organization’s capabilities to match the opportunity. Or, as HBR put it, entrepreneurs must “shift from working in their company to working on their company.”
I’ve worked closely with leaders at small- and medium-sized enterprises around the world — helping them work on their companies. The challenge of managing business travel is a good way to view the larger task of making sure you put all the right resources in place as you scale your business. How do the most successful companies stay agile and customer-focused as they grow? Essentially it comes down to three simple things: professionals, processes and partners.
Call In The Professionals
Matching a company’s resources with scale is a business problem most entrepreneurs face no matter how unique their vision is. Business experts exist to advise, apply established best practices and even provide outsourcing services. That might sound like an extravagant cost for a lean startup but often there’s no upfront fee. Plus, the return on investment is the real measure. Corporate travel is an area where systems can reduce costs, improve efficiencies and help everyone stay focused on the company mission rather than administration.
At a more strategic level, well-known management consultant Peter Drucker wrote that putting the right resources in place enables managers to see patterns that truly drive efficiency. Analytics provide valuable business insights, but the data needs to be accessible and organized. Many functions have several moving parts, business travel being a good example. How much do you spend? What vendors do you use the most? Where could you negotiate price breaks, or make it easier for your people to make the best choices for the bottom line? How can you find answers if everyone is making it up as they go? These questions have been asked and answered by others. Tap their experience.
Good People, Good Processes
In the Mark Zuckerberg “move fast and break things” era that we’re in, the word “process” sounds like the ultimate mood killer. It conjures up pictures of endless meetings and bureaucracies that prevent you from doing what you want and need to do. But it’s the wrong way to think about management processes; process helps organizations move faster as they grow.
I often hear customers say they didn’t quite realize how demanding travel management has become. Ask yourself, do you want your most creative and talented people focused on helping customers or spending time researching airlines, hotels and rental cars for next week’s sales call? Letting everyone make up their own processes for managing travel — or accounting or customer relations for that matter — can breed chaos, raise expenses and burden your best people. This takes them away from helping customers. Standardizing administrative practices is critical to surviving that steep revenue ramp. Thoughtfully constructed, processes free up people to focus on higher-value, customer-oriented tasks. A good process won’t slow you down. It will let you move faster.
Partners In Scale
Scaling an organization to keep up with revenue growth requires embracing a paradox. Sometimes, scaling something up demands scaling something else down. For example, businesses could unlock more value by scaling down to a collaborative office working space, which would scale up the business by having more employees on the road meeting clients. Rather than adding more people and more management time, consider what can be scaled through a great partner.
In simple terms, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself. Your business will grow and become more complex as it scales. So you need trusted partners who understand your business and have the right technology, customer focus and agility to grow with you. You also need simplified processes that free you up to invent the next big idea that’s going to change the world.
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