It’s all fun and games ’til it’s time to grow up.
Common responses of executives in the Acceleration Phase:
“Revenue is more important than profit right now.”
“Our customers fully understand the value we give them.”
“I’m more bullish on our future than I was a year ago.”
“We can’t keep up with staffing needs.”
Acceleration is just what it sounds like: the culture has a family feel, your foot is to the floor, and you (and your staff) are wondering if it’s really sustainable. It isn’t, but the good news – and the bad – is that this won’t last forever. While you’re moving so fast right now it’s hard to imagine devoting time to systems and processes like a real, grown-up company, that’s your next stop. The two immutable truths of Acceleration are that nobody can accelerate forever, and growing up is going to be a lot harder than you think.
Enjoy the ride.
The Acceleration Phase is where things are really starting to click. Organizations in this phase tend to be growing rapidly and increasingly differentiating themselves. They’re usually well-aligned internally and building strong cultures (it’s always fun to be part of a winning team, right?). They’re not afraid to take risks and embrace change; very often they are the change. Accelerating organizations aren’t always profitable, but this is the phase where they must demonstrate that they can be.
Organizations in this phase sometimes struggle to keep up with customer demand and staffing needs. If you’re going to have problems, these are good problems to have. Still, you should beware of outpacing your ability to maintain quality (reputations can be a delicate thing) and watch your cash flow. The old adages “growth can kill” and “cash is king” are adages for a reason.
If there’s one thing we all wish we had more of, it’s time. Remember, momentum beats perfection, so you don’t have to worry if nothing’s working perfectly. As we like to say, don’t hesitate, iterate. But do keep your eyes open for waste and leakage—especially if you’re burning cash. The faster you move, the less efficient you tend to be. And if you run out of fuel, well, you’ll crash.
Ahead is the Maturation Phase, where you’ll begin to codify your brand, institutionalize your internal culture, and profitably reap as you continue to expand and mature. This phase could be weeks or months ahead or it could be years ahead, but it’s coming because you can’t keep accelerating forever. Others will see your success and find ways to encroach on your turf, and if you start to think you can do no wrong, you will be proven otherwise in short order.
So, enjoy the ride. Learn as much as you can. Look for ways to improve (the detailed results that follow will shed light on your strengths and weaknesses). And stay humble.
Become who you were designed to be.
Forces at Work
Research during this phase might be synonymous with R&D. Your competitors are moving just as fast as you are, and you’re better off focusing on your customer than you are watching the other cars on the track.
Late-phase Acceleration is the ideal time to plant a stake in the ground and decide who you’re going to be. You’ve got enough experience, and you’re going to need that clarity to navigate the coming pain of growing up into Maturity.
“What marketing?!” You’ve been growing so fast that the thought of seeking more business may not have occurred to you. But competitors will catch up faster than you think, and you’re going to need a compelling answer when customers start asking why you’re different.
Take the 5-minute diagnostic.
We’ve been here.
You don’t have time to think about what’s next…but we do.
Reach out to stay ahead.
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