Not Growing A Company. Building it
I was just reading in this month’s Fast Company (another) article about Steve Jobs. But it wasn’t about Apple—it was about Jobs’ years away from Apple. The writer, Brent Schlender talks about how Jobs became a “corporate architect” during those years with Next and Pixar. I think this was a fundamental key to Jobs’ subsequent success at Apple. He learned how to build a company, not just grow it.
As a successful leader, you’ve got to become the architect of the company, determining the design for the organization and how you will expand the design as the company grows. I think of it like this:
Product execution provides the foundation for the building. Without this in place, it isn’t a stable company. And there’s no base on which to build a company.
The organizational structure serves as the walls of the building. Initially, the walls can be flimsy and random but as the building gets larger, much more structure is needed to support the second story and the third. Trying to build the second story on a structure that was originally just holding up a thatch roof is asking for a collapse. The greater the expansion of the building, the more structure is needed. This doesn’t mean it has to be traditional. Feel free to design a creative, modern structure. It just has to be strong enough to support the building. If you only want a one story hut, no problem. Not a lot of structure is needed for that.
Leadership is the plumbing of the building. It keeps everything flowing in the right direction. When the leaders are not doing their jobs, it’s like the plumbing is backed up. The toilet is overflowing, the sink is clogged, sewage is backwashing into the building. No one wants to work (or live) in that environment. It’s the leader’s job to keep everything flowing smoothly. Without good leaders the company can’t grow, just as without plumbing, the building is uninhabitable. And having plumbing on the first floor isn’t enough if the building now has multiple stories. Think of the time and energy wasted with everyone running down to the first floor bath or kitchen plus the long line for availability. Imagine how the problem multiplies with multiple stories. Eek!
Communication is the electricity. It’s the juice that sparks creativity, the brightness that lights the way, the warmth that draws employees and customers, the resource that supports productivity. Without great communication, the company is dark and cold. Employees are literally working in the dark. How successful can that be?
And the culture of the company is like the interior design. Without guiding principles and sense of process (how we are doing things), the company is an empty shell. A building with no furniture, flooring, decoration or personal effects lacks personality and meaning, intimacy and connection. So many companies think its fine to operate in an “empty building” and then wonder why employees are not loyal, committed or happy.
So stop thinking growth and start thinking building. Become the company architect and create a business that supports the growth and expansion you want.