By Charlie Stott, Senior Strategist at Wolff Olins
Last week it was reported that Groupon, the daily deals provider, has generated so many customer complaints about how it markets its deals that it could face legal action unless it improves.
The same day, the portal put out a statement saying that rapid growth had been at the heart of its problems - its internal processes and procedures had struggled to keep pace with its expansion. This is certainly not the first time a brand has become a victim of its own success. In fact, rapid growth is a challenge that many companies — large or small — have to navigate. So what can they do to avoid some of the common pitfalls? Here are ten principles for dealing well with rapid growth:
1. Get things wrong, but respond right. You will get things wrong at some point; the real question is how will you respond? Solve problems in partnership with all of your users and provide the social tools for them to cut you out of the problem-solving process. For instance when Skype crashed in December 2010 the CEO took personal responsibility, went on social media and engaged 100 million users in developing work-arounds and fixes.
2. Do what's right by your customer - if not you threaten your future. Think of your business from the customer’s perspective with a clear set of principles to live by. This, not profit, should be your primary filter for what you do and don't do.
3. Decide what makes you special. Acknowledge what's remarkable (and relevant) about your organisation from customers', investors' and employees' perspectives. Plan what it could be in the next quarter, and the quarter after that...and as part of this decide what you are going to suck at: nobody is world class at everything.
4. Start planning change. Create a wish list of changes you'd like to make for your business (the 'business as unusual' list). Pick one (collectively) and commit to making it happen (by a certain date).
5. Balance two forces. There will be tension between time spent staying afloat (maintenance) and making new (competitive edge). Enable your people to spend more of their effort and ability on making new by developing systems for maintenance.
6. Pride yourself on your talent pool. Invest in building a culture of constant learning, respect and focus. Make sure every person in your business understands where you're heading, shares your beliefs and is close to your customers.
7. Understand why you’re growing. Constantly refine your offer in response to customers' latent needs (hint: you cannot do this if you don't know your customer). If you do this your growth will be based on maintaining relevance.
8.Think about location and culture. If you think about expanding or moving on geographically, be sure to treat the cultural context with care, and be open to evolving your brand's identity as a result.
9. Review your organisation from your competitors' perspective. When you review your competitors, adapt and use their best ideas, as they will with yours.
10. Promote a culture of learning by doing. It’s a necessity for confident continued growth.
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