Be careful what you wish for when managing growth...here are three key factors to help.
Every Hispanic entrepreneur wants his/her company to grow, and growth is a good thing.
But managing that growth can be trickier than you think. Entrepreneurs are by nature ambitious, reasonably open to take on risk to gain a reward and many see their firms as sharks if they aren't constantly growing, they fear they will drown.
When we moved our 1,500 square-foot LA office to 5,000 square feet in Burbank, this entailed a HUGE risk.
We were more than tripling our rent, hiring a lot of new people to man our phone bank, installing a physical infrastructure of wiring for phones and computers; we built out cubbies, a new focus facility, etc. I hired a good friend who was an unemployed artist and he did an amazing job painting and decorating everything.
So how did we pay for all of this?
We were able to apply for and won a small business loan from the City of Burbank that was running a Hispanic business growth program at the end of the recession of the early 90s to help Burbank fill up lots of empty office space. The loan was to be repaid either in cash or through tax receipts to the city ultimately taxes on phone service and our business tax, and we had no trouble ginning up the tax liabilities to the city and thus the loan was excused. Cool.
Thank you, Burbank, and thank you to the clerks at City Hall who reached out to us to offer us the deal.
Absent that little bit of government assistance, I don't know how we could have done it, even with our wonderful little tortilla company account and the revenues we were able to pay our own employees instead of paying those dollars out to technical suppliers.
Here are three key factors:
1. The People Factor
But all of this growth meant one big thing that I underestimated was peopletheir value, contributions and need for my time.
Growing with new computers was easy while building business with lots of people can be a mixed bag if you don't take the time to select wisely and pay attention post hiring. As a Hispanic entrepreneur Coaching, management and teaching have to be high on your action list even though you may feel like you have no time since you are in the lead to bring home that revenue bacon!
Managing a lot of people is the hardest thing I did as a business owner. I say that while knowing full well that I was extraordinarily lucky with 98 percent of the people I hired over the years.
Certainly a few proved to be bad apples, very bad apples even, but most were fantastic and are still with me all these years later in our new company. Hiring will probably be the most important thing you will do.
If I could do it over again, although I did this to a certain extent, I would place even more emphasis on the content of their characters along with the content of their resumes. Along with paying attention to employees comes the need to trust but verify at the point you hire them and along the way too.
At one point we got hit with an ugly, painful task we had gotten notices from the Social Security Dept that a large number of our phone center employees were using fake Social Security numbers.
This put us in the cross-hairs for the INS and we were thus threatened with heavy fines for hiring undocumented workers. So we had to ask everyone for their papers, and a good third of our call center employees had to be let go.
This hurt real bad, because of course we were close to many of them, several had worked for us for years, and I swear this third constituted almost all of our top performers. Ouch.
Staying refreshed, motivated and relaxed is important.
It's also important for you to watch your health. So no matter how busy you are, dont forget to exercise regularly and take vacations, because youll need them.
Much like a nap can really charge you up, so can a vacation. There is no point in running around so hard and so fast you die of a heart attack or a perforated ulcer. I used to work with a trainer because I treated it like a business appointment and a regular part of my work week.
I was less disciplined about going to the gym without benefit of a firm commitment to go. Call it a weakness.
2. Handling Mistakes
Whatever it is you deliver to your clients, always do it well and do not hide any flaws.
When you have to correct a mistake you or someone on your team made, go ahead and do it, even if it costs you all the profit you would have made and more. Your long-term reputation is more important than your short- term profit margin.
There were of course a few grumpy and unpleasant clients who did not see our work together as collaboration, but most were impressed with our honesty, happy that the final product we delivered was accurate and they came back. Of course, these mistakes were few and far between; otherwise they wouldn't have come back.
About the author
Carlos E. Garcia, born to Mexican immigrant parents, grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Pomona College, UC Berkeley and National University (BA, MA and MBA respectively). He has over thirty years of experience in the field of US Hispanic consumer research, twenty one years at the helm of his own company, Garcia Research. Most recently SVP at GfK: Knowledge Networks, where he headed up their Hispanic research efforts. He's gone full circle and now back at the helm of Garcia Research, a Hispanic market and Multicultural-focused research firm.Website