Fast or moderate growth company - which is the one for you?
Rapidly growing companies provide work opportunities and challenges which will suit the needs of professionals with a certain skills and goals while those growing at a slower pace will suit yet others.
Reciprocally, it takes different skills, personal characteristics, and work ethic to be successful in fast growing companies vs. those growing at a slower pace.
Let's explore some characteristics of fast and less fast growing companies and the skills/lifestyle choices which professionals need to make in order to be successful in them.
Looking at it the other way, based on your skills and lifestyle choices, aim to work in companies which are growing at the pace where you will be successful.
This would be equally relevant when making choices between companies or between groups of the same company which are growing at a different pace
High Growth companies
The rapid growth of a company can be driven by innovative products or services, a new market category, rapid geographic or product line expansion, mergers/acquisitions, or combinations of these.
Whatever the underlying reason, the company is growing fast and every part of the business - sales, customer service, manufacturing, operations, and supply chain - needs to gear up very rapidly to support the growth.
In order to be successful in such companies, employees need to:
Have high energy and stamina as well as the willingness to work extended and long hours.
Demonstrate adaptability and flexibility to unpredictable & changing work schedules and responsibilities.
Manage non-work and family expectations to allow the long hours and unexpected contingencies.
Deliver results - the professional and educational background matters less as long as you can deliver results.
The most critical measure for growth companies is that the topline growth numbers are met. Employees who deliver will be in the limelight.
Another, unsaid, yet important measure is that these companies want to see employees putting in their fullest and be seen as working hard and long hours. Read the recent press from Google and Alibaba on how they facilitate long and extended hours for their employees. Or, think of all the IT services PM's who took pride in talking about the late nights & weekends they worked to help their organization's grow.
Since these firms value those who give all to the company, there will always be place for those who can demonstrate it. As long as the company is growing rapidly, new jobs will get created, and when filling these new roles, a preference will be accorded to those who have demonstrated commitment, stamina, and sacrifice to help the company grow.
Personal likeability and collaboration are important but the absence of these tends not to be job killers as long as you can deliver the growth results. So less social or collaborative professionals can also have good careers with high growth companies, as long as they bring stamina, dedication, and the skills needed to deliver on growth goals.
Slower growth companies
As is inevitable, growth will slow down at some time. This could be a function of market maturity, high market share, or a reducing pipeline of new products or services.
Since the growth is slower, situations (in the market and internal) tend to be more predictable, which in turn lends to higher levels of predictability in work-loads, schedules, and the knowledge/skills required to meet the organization's goals.
This in turn allows more predictability of work commitments/hours and hence the opportunity to commit more – and predictable - time to other pursuits including family time
However, slowing growth drives greater emphasis on operational excellence and every job position must show relevance and impact.
If every position needs to show impact, in addition to results, productivity also becomes critical.
A consequence of this is that firms will tend to want folks who are going to be most productive in a role, and with minimal learning curves. This tilts the balance towards those with relevant experience (with or from outside the firm) and higher levels of knowledge and specialization.
The drive for productivity and impact puts every role under a microscope. While performance matters, it is also important to be seen as a performer and a team player. This brings in the importance of networking with peers and supervisors. You not only need to work and produce results but key stakeholders should be aware that you are performing.
Aside of the positive benefits of networking & messaging in opening new opportunities and growth paths, it can be even more critical in slow growth companies. Here, opportunities are few, and job reductions happen often. Hence having the right sponsors and the goodwill of peers can make a significant difference in career progression and longevity.
A rising tide lifts all. So is the case with fast growing companies. They are growing fast, new opportunities are being created, and there is always a shortage of hands.
If you can dedicate a significant part of your waking hours to work, and put your non-work activities on a backburner, then higher growth companies are a good choice. There will be no dearth of work – and plenty of new opportunities for learning and earning,
If you have interests beyond the job which you want to pursue or are looking for more predictable work and schedule, you might want to aim for slower growth companies. With them, focus on continually specializing in your work and demonstrating growing levels of productivity and collaboration.
Whichever choice you make, results count so ensure that you deliver. Equally important, network and message your contributions and achievements to those who count. You not only need to perform, but also be seen as someone who is doing his/her share towards the success of the company.
And finally, while results trump likability in high growth companies, every company will slow down at some time. While it's always a good idea to focus on performance, also make that extra effort to be the one your teams and peers are cheering for!