This is Challenge #11 and it is the top challenge in Stage 4.

Remember, you always start with the NAME of the stage of growth when talking with a CEO. Stage 4 is called Professional with 35 – 57 employees. As the company matures, Stage 4 defines that maturity as hiring or training professional managers who have been there, done that. Experienced managers who know how to hire and train people and set up and implement key systems.

There are a lot of critical changes that occur as a company grows from Stage 3 to Stage 4. The CEO needs to spend 70% of his/her time in the Manager Role (3 Faces of a Leader), and continue to hone their coaching skills in order to become a better mentor to those managers new to the company.

Here are three specific reasons why this is the #1 challenge for Stage 4:

  1. The company is experiencing more complexity: more people, more systems, more clients, more revenue and more expenses. There is a requirement to recognize project management as a strategic tool to improve efficiencies.
  2. The CEO has hired and trained managers to run specific aspects of the company. Those managers need to bring project management experience and skills to the company.
  3. The need to manage resources effectively has never been greater.

At the same time, the company is managing larger projects, working with larger clients and that creates a strain on existing processes, not to mention existing staff who are comfortable with how things were and not so excited about change.

The project management challenge is all about figuring out how to standardize critical processes to improve workflow and increase the company’s ability to sustain profitability.

Most companies are fairly good at creating kick off meetings where the project team is pulled together to discuss all aspects of the project. Responsibilities are fine-tuned, expectations are set, communication plans are put in place and timelines are identified. Weekly (or sometimes daily) project update meetings are scheduled with the intent of making sure everyone understands what’s working, where issues are cropping up and who will handle those concerns.

What doesn’t always occur are post-project meetings that allow the project team to actually evaluate and review what went well and where improvements need to be made. A company’s goal is to identify what “good” looks like. What makes a project successful? In no particular order, these are the questions that must be answered after each project:

  1. Did we meet our overall objectives?
  2. Was the client happy?
  3. Did we meet our budget projections? Were we over or under and if so, why?
  4. Did we meet our timelines? Were we over or under and if so, why?
  5. How well did our team perform?
  6. How well did we manage our resources?
  7. What could we have done better?
  8. What did we do well?

This isn’t a meeting where fingers are pointed and complaints are logged. It is a critical assessment of how well the project team performed. Without this serious and consistent review process, new projects will be underfunded, resources won’t be allocated properly, timelines will be unrealistic and the bottom line will take a hit.

Help your clients with three critical exercises to provide them tools to manage this challenge.

Exercise #1:  Identify skills and talents for a project manager

Exercise #2:  What makes a good project plan

Exercise #3: Being intentional about resource allocation and knowing when to hire that next employee

If you can help your clients take the time and energy to establish a solid recruiting, hiring, on-boarding, training and development program for new hires, adding good project managers will not be that difficult. When your clients are intentional about who to hire, clear about the outcomes they want that person to achieve and supportive in helping them learn and grow, everyone wins.

As a marketing communications company, managing 180+ projects every day, we didn’t immediately recognize the need to hire people with good project management skills. Our core competency was marketing and we focused our candidate search on finding great marketing talent. We had an important “ah ha” moment that sounded something like this: Should we be looking for project managers that can help our marketing strategists manage projects? Th at simple adjustment to the recognition that we were a project driven company, that delivered great marketing strategy, fundamentally changed who we hired and how the company was organized.

As a company grows, there are more people, projects, clients and more complexity; there must be more processes. The CEO can no longer be counted on to catch problems before they occur or to make all the decisions. As the company grows, overhead ramps up, and if someone isn’t paying attention, profitability will begin to erode.

By Stage 4, the company has outgrown one person’s ability to manage it all single handedly, and processes must become the leader’s best friend as the company grows. When the company has 20 employees, allocating resources to a project is easy. As companies grow, typically the leader continues to simply run the company without thinking intentionally about what resources are needed and why they are needed. Unless resources are effectively implemented, the business starts to break down.

Ask your clients what is their plan for this critical part of growing their company? If analyzing project management systems and resource allocation are not among their strengths, you can help them or you can find the expertise to provide them with better insight. Take the time to understand the software options available for small to mid-sized business. The outlay of money will be more than offset by the efficiencies gained. Staff morale and better bottom line results are great reasons to help your clients get focused on the processes and resources the company needs to succeed.

Starting on page 121 in my Stage 4 book, Managing the Managers: How to Accelerate Growth Through People and Processes with 35 – 57 Employees, you’ll find ideas for all Three Exercises I mentioned that will help your CEOs address Challenge #11. You can get your Stage 4 book at


Your Success. My Passion.

Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!