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Surviving the teenage years

Over the last 12 years, I can proudly say that I have mastered the art of hiring great engineers. I am surrounded by amazing talent and it seems like my last hires have all been superstars.

As we all know – great businesses need more than great employees, they also need rock solid systems and processes. And holy smackers do we have a LOT of internal systems and processes. I’m sure we all feel that our industries have their challenges, but it really feels like we are in one of the toughest industries to build permanent processes and procedures. Technologies are always evolving to the point where it feels like we would need a full-time position just to keep our processes current and up to date. Every software update means we need to modify or update systems. New technologies, cyber security, application training, customer support, phones, networking, operating systems, servers, desktops, laptops, tablets, mobile apps, the dark web, remote management, backups and disaster recovery, scripting, best practices, acceptable use, content filtering, and the list goes on and on and on… it’s truly never ending!

The American fast-food tycoon Ray Kroc mastered the art of creating fool proof systems and processes, but I often wonder how often he had to modify his processes on how to make a hamburger.

As a business owner, you tend to wear a gazillion hats and a potential positive sign is the ability of building systems to gradually remove those hats until your primary role becomes the team cheerleader, the idea factory, the visionary. It’s funny – I still remember when I took off my technical hat to work on growing the business. That was back in February 2016, and again in August of the same year, tried it again in 2017. In 2018, it was officially off, except for that summer where I missed my family vacation because we had an engineer unexpectedly out for surgery. But that truly was the last time I wore a technical hat in my company.

I was still wearing the marketing, sales, operations, CEO, account management and many other hats. But removing the largest hat of all, while a major struggle was a big win as a business owner. Since then, we have nearly tripled the size of the company and added 8 new members to our team.

When I finally removed my technical hat – I thought my days would quickly free up and I would have more time to move on to building solid systems to remove my next hat, and the next, and the next. I would have more time do the things that I love but I quickly discovered that in its place, new challenges would arise to take up most of my time. Our rapid growth came with unexpected conundrums. What used to work so amazingly well with a smaller team and fewer clients suddenly became struggling processes or missing processes throughout the company. This is when I realized that processes are not a set it and forget it – but almost a living, breathing entity that runs your company. Left alone in a corner unattended, starving to death can literally destroy your business. These processes are literally the heart of the company. The organ pumping the oxygen and nutrients your organization needs to survive.  An organization with outdated systems and processes would be the equivalent or attempting to run a marathon with clogged arteries and without proper training.

Luckily, we had implemented metric “scorecards” early on in our growth and were able to quickly spot where our business processes and procedures needed a little bit of love. We were able to add amazing people to the team whose roles were not necessarily technical. This was the moment when we realized that the needs of the business had completely changed. We had turned the page to a new chapter. We were no longer a “smaller” shop.

Today so happens to be my daughter’s 13th birthday – which makes me realize that Avenir IT is also entering its teenage years. The company continues to grow and it’s needs continue to evolve. Similar to no longer being able to resolve all of my daughter’s issues with ice cream, a kiss or a band aid, the same holds true to the new and evolving struggles of a growing company. (Although Avenir IT has yet to roll its eyes at me or call me old and boring!)

I enjoy the day-to-day challenges of owning my business, and I FREAKING LOVE IT! I would not trade it for the world and I’m still having loads of fun – even in its adolescence. But it’s fun to look back and reflect at what has worked and what hasn’t – and how important having our processes and procedures, business metrics and an amazing team early on helped us avoid issues that could have been devastating.

It’s strange really, feeling like we’re always turning the page to a new chapter in the growth of our company. It’s a proud moment knowing that we’ve reached a point where we can help build the economy and change the employment statistics even during a devastating pandemic.

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