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Episode 23: Scaling a Business - The Stages of Growth

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In this special Shakespeare inspired episode, Dave Parry and Richard Buckle set themselves the challenge of discussing the different stages of growth for a business, but to celebrate William Shakespeare's birthday, the business stages are marked against Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man (from As You Like It).

Are Dave and Rich up to the challenge of merging the worlds of SME Growth and Shakespeare? Listen now to find out!

Get the most from this episode in the form that works best for you: watch the episode, read the transcript and access some further resources. 

 

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REad the transcript

Please note: Whilst all transcripts are double checked for accuracy, they are transcribed via Otter.AI so may contain errors.

David Parry 02:07

Okay, here we go barred from this podcast. Shall we go? Let's go. Okay. So hello, and welcome to this week's SME Growth Podcast with me Dave Parry and him. Richard Buckle.

Richard Buckle 02:21

Not The Bard, 

David Parry 02:22

Not The Bard. So if you've listened to that little wacky intro, we're trying to do a growth related podcast today linked to Shakespeare because it's his birthday. So we thought we'd refer to As You Like It, famous Shakespeare play in which there is a monologue, which some of you may have heard of, called The Seven Ages of Man. And I'm going to spare that for now. But maybe there'll be some bonus content later on talks about it. But he talks about seven ages of man in terms of the various evolutionary steps that a human being takes from, from very young, very old. And we thought, right, let's try and compare the evolution of a company to the stages of man. And it's and I know, it sounds is actually more sensible than it sounds, perhaps. But I end up having this discussion a lot. And I know you do, too, where we're in companies that were advising and helping and so on. And there are pinch points in the growth of a company. Yeah, growth isn't a linear thing. And you can do 10/2030% More than what you're doing today, with pretty much the same type of people, if maybe not exactly the same number, same structures, the same systems. But if you go to double it, triple it, quadruple it, you're going to move into a different territory.

Richard Buckle 03:32

So it's like stretching elastic band, isn't it so you can stretch elastic band so far. And then at some point, it's no longer flexible. So you need a bigger elastic band, you need a bigger, you know, it's, it's, you know, maybe that's not quite the right analogy, but it's, it's about that transition between different stages of growth

David Parry 03:52

I was in I was having this sort of discussion in Utrecht late last week, and I described the situation as being a bit like in the adolescence phase as a human. Yeah, lots of things are changing, you're changing the environments changing and all that. And I was trying to say that that's the stage they're at with their management team, they're gonna try to draw a pretty, you know, clumsy metaphor to try and work it out. And that's what prompted the idea for for this sort of discussion because there is one of the seven stages of man that relates very closely to that. So that's why I thought I think we can pull this off? 

Richard Buckle 04:23

Let's have a go. 

David Parry 04:24

This is one of our more challenging themes in for a podcasts. So should I quickly run through what the seven stages are set the scene 

Richard Buckle 04:30

that'd be useful because I don't know 

David Parry 04:33

I can't say I've committed to memory all of the the opening monologue from act two scene seven of As You Like It, but several stages are infant so we can all get their heads around that school boy so slightly older. Shakespeare calls it lover but you really means teenager, you know that sort of age in their teens. Soldier is the next one he comes up with so you can imagine you know, early 20s in their 20s Pick physical fitness, fighting away And then justice is what he calls the next bit which we probably call middle aged you know someone is a bit of a know it all but more wisened and and life experienced. And then we're moving a bit more into old age which he calls pantaloon. But he means old age, someone who's starting to be dependent on others. And then finally, he draws a loop back to almost a second childhood. Because when you get so old, you're so dependent on others dribbling in the corner, that actually you're not much better than an infant again. So that's how he draws the arc. Okay, so wherever listeners are, they're probably somewhere sat in either soldier, justice or pantaloon. And you can make your own judgement 

Richard Buckle 05:36

I can't help but think as I just casually glanced at the actual poem or monologue monologue, that when he's talking about the justice, he says, The justice in fair round belly and with cap on lined with sort of with eyes severe and a beard, a formal cut, I don't know who he is referring to... 

David Parry 05:56

But he was definitely 450 years ahead of his time. Like you met, perfect, there we go. So we shall have to weave in the Shakespearean descriptions of these various characters, as we describe this arc of a company evolving. And as I say, there is a serious side to this, because not so much about identifying where you're at, as much as knowing how far you are away from the next transition, because it's the transitions that get you. And we've seen this time and time again, in companies and you'll know of it even if it's not your company, it'll be someone you know, where they seem to be doing okay. And they either stay still for too long, or they grew without making the appropriate adjustments, and it all started going wrong. And the wrong conclusion, I think to draw from that is that it's not wrong to grow. It's wrong to grow without realising that at some point of growth, you can't just carry on in a straight line, you have to change some things. So some people respond, it will say, Oh, I'm going to stay where I am, you're better off just staying as my little two or 5 million pound company because that's safer. Well, it's only safe in the sense that you don't have to change everybody around you is and they're going to come and overtake you, and and you'll lose market share or people or whatever, or product some other way. So I think it's those transitions that matter. Yeah. So should we try and talk through them? Starting with maybe the easy ones? An infact is a start up. Everyone knows about the challenges of running a startup, there might only be one of you, 123 of you, you're really strapped for cash, you've got more ideas and energy, then you've got resources to spend. You maybe don't have customers yet. Everything's fresh and new. You don't know who you are, you don't really know where your niche is.

Richard Buckle 07:31

Maybe not everybody listening has been in a startup. But that's that's,

David Parry 07:35

that is a very good point. Yeah, a lot of people come into a business when it's already established 

Richard Buckle 07:40

So it's, and that's not to say that, oftentimes the business owner those, it's almost like if if you've not cleaned the toilet or empty the dishwasher. That's the startup phases, 

David Parry 07:52

we both, we both experienced those rubber gloves in the bathroom

Richard Buckle 07:58

But, but it is that all hands on deck phase. 

David Parry 08:04

Making tea for each others visitors.

Richard Buckle 08:05

But it's almost like the job titles become pretty irrelevant. Really, 

David Parry 08:10

you're emptying the bins, you're doing the selling, you're doing the delivering you're, you're maybe even doing the payroll and VAT returns 

Richard Buckle 08:16

It's like so varied as it's like that everything, every single job that needs to be done, someone's got to do it. But there's only three people here. 

David Parry 08:23

And all you know is that there's something that you've done, which someone else seems to have some value in, it might only be one customer or two customers requests might not be very many. And maybe you're doing a different thing for all of them. So you haven't really quite fine tuned. What it is you do you just know that? Generally you got something that seems to be going down? Well, yeah. And you're almost waiting to be taken along on the wave to see where's this going to take me which bits of the market is going to open up but you like an infant, you're just wide eyed anything's possible. You know, it's a blank canvas almost. And it's it's very confusing, but very exciting and dynamic,  

Richard Buckle 08:54

think as well. Yeah. So we're gonna be referring to these. These labels as analogies, but, like an infant is, is quite vulnerable as well,

David Parry 09:04

mewling and puking in his mother's arms. Oh no it's nurses isn't it.

Richard Buckle 09:10

Quote thrown in there. but no, like an infant is very vulnerable. And I think that at that stage of a company's development, you know, how many startups don't make it? You know, we've had startups that haven't really, you know, fulfilled their potential.

David Parry 09:29

And I suppose we have an unusual perspective on this compared to people who are listening already in established businesses that even though we are now an established business, we were once a startup but along the way, we've created other startups. We've spawned a number of other companies and one of them lives and thrives to this day in the shape of Magic Minutes as a company and others we've tried that we talk less about and maybe they fell by the wayside, but it's made us more rounded people to have been through the trials, the slings and arrows of misfortune, maybe trials and tribulations. I've tried to get a company off the ground. Okay, so that's infant Now there's a transition next into so yeah, into the schoolboy phase. So the school boys is a variation of that. But it is more out there more of you, for a start, you, you may now have half a dozen dozen people around you, you've got a regular enough income you probably VAT registered, you're having to worry about recruiting to replace leavers. If you know there's just a bit more real stuff coming in. But you're still not quite sure who you are, you're still trying to find your identity, your brands probably changing every now and again, as you're not quite sure how to present yourself how to sell yourself how to, quote, work, how to price it, you know, it's all still very experimental, isn't it? Yes.

Richard Buckle 10:43

still evolving, still kind of, like you say you haven't really got, you haven't got the time to put too many systems in. Because you're too busy still trying to survive in that way. Maybe not not quite maybe survive in the same way that you are as an infant. But you are, you know, maybe you've got a bit of cash reserve. Maybe you are, you know, a bank would take you a bit more seriously. For example, if you need extra funding, you're a little bit more grown up, but it's still, you're still like you say working out, well, how do we say you may be falling into that trap of just chasing any sale? As you haven't got the confidence there

David Parry 11:19

Certainly one of the traps for this. Because that's the behaviour you learned as an infant stage. 

Richard Buckle 11:24

Yeah, anything that comes in gets a quote

David Parry 11:27

You haven't quite got the maturity yet to say no or to be choosier about stuff, that's for sure. And you probably still clinging to lots of the very make do and mend ways of doing stuff as a startup, even to the point where you're still taking the bins out. Instead of hiring a cleaner, you know, these are things that as you grew up, you just got to accept happen. Some of the reporting requirements are just some of the way people can say VAT or making payroll work. And so you've just got to accept that you will have to change things. And you may be a bit resistant to that. Yeah, a bit like the one in school boy with his satchel, and going unwillingly to school. So yeah, I think that that phase is distinct from the infant. And that transition, we see less often because usually, we meet people in a more advanced age, but we've been through it. And you just have to either tell yourself or be told by someone that part of growing up is to stop doing some things, and to start doing other things. It's not an evolution of just doing some more of the same.

Richard Buckle 12:24

I think there's I think there's a danger here as well, like, maybe from our own personal experience of you've got an awful lot of things that can distract you at this stage. Yeah, because you haven't quite got to that point where it's like, right, we've actually focused in on a, on a product here that we can really all service that we that we really know that we really understand that we've really dialled in to how it's going to work. We're more you know, we're coming up with different ideas. I mean, we went through a number of startups that were probably in hindsight, something of a distraction at that point. Because you're thinking, well, we've got an opportunity. Yeah, we can, and you're still so hands on on the business all the time that you're thinking, Well, of course, I can do everything, spend loads of plates and get on with all these things. But you live and learn.

David Parry 13:13

And we shouldn't have done in some of them. We joke that we always used to get attracted by the latest shiny new toy like the magpie, whatever shine shone we we were drawn to it, moth to flame sort of thing. So yeah, we we did lots of things because we were trying, we didn't know what was gonna be successful. Any one of those startups could have been the millionaire maker idea, but you don't know until you try it. And I think now we're probably a bit more worldly wise, and we might have spotted it. But at that stage, we were definitely in the schoolboy category.

Richard Buckle 13:39

I think you learned over through that of how to how to fail fast. And I think that's a really important you know, if you are in that stage where you're thinking that we've got, you know, a talented team around us, we're small enough, we're agile enough to be able to just like fire off and do things. That actually is great. But it also can be really dangerous, really distracting, if you're not careful. So you've got to like right, we've got no idea we want to innovate. How can we fail fast at this? Yeah. So the if it doesn't work out, bang

David Parry 14:09

You're not wasting resources, you just gotta learn say no.

Richard Buckle 14:11

And you learn that over time just by seeing and doing, You can't teach it, you can't read it in a book, You've got to experience it I was talking to someone yesterday who said he rang me up and I'd spoken to him, he was trying to get me to get on board with a business idea he had around EV about six months ago. And he told me the idea and I was just like, that is never going to work because of Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang. Yeah. And he rang yesterday and said I'm so grateful that you didn't like, you know, that you just turned me off it having spoken to you because I just didn't see it. It was a great idea. I thought this was gonna be the game changer. And it was just like 

David Parry 14:47

realisation was dawned thanks to you. Well, we had the same experience with another software product. We tried it we dedicated to lawyers and there was a particular regulatory requirement we were trying to help them solve with a legal product and We fell over for sort of similar reasons in the opposite sense in that we were given too much positive feedback. We did market research And all those who spoke to said, yeah, that's brilliant. So we spent a goodly sum developing it. And then they also know that we don't need it really. But you said before that, yeah, I thought other people might like it. Yeah. So yeah, you got to be careful. You need to be honest with your market researcher. That's yeah. And choose your advisors carefully. You know, don't don't just listen to people that want to be nice to you, or encouraging. And your relatives are almost unfortunately the worst.

Richard Buckle 15:28

Don't ask your friends or your relatives at that stage about anything

David Parry 15:31

They don't want to upset you do. So you don't have any friends do you

Richard Buckle 15:35

I haven't got any really? Yeah, that was easy. As you find a packet of mints from that business the other day, when I was cleaning out a drawer

David Parry 15:48

Okay, so we've got to the schoolboy. So the next one up in, in Shakespeare's seven stages of man is what he calls the lover, which as I said, at the beginning, is what I've always thought of as more of a teenager, you know, someone in their late teens years, almost an adult, you know, the tweeners, or whatever they call them. And this type of business is almost a company, it's got a lot of the trappings of a company, you know, it's, it's a man, it's like to grow a beard, it's got a bit of stature, but it's still under the surface, it's still quite unsure of itself, it's lacking in self confidence. So in terms of size, we're probably talking about 15/25 people, something like that, you know, the boss is still very hands on with everything, still recruiting, everybody's still signing off lots of things and making lots of decisions, probably not delegating very much. But to the outside, it's starting to look like a proper company. Yeah, its sales are probably climbing up now maybe a couple of million or even more, and people around it, used to seeing deliver good work and professional work. And I think I know a few companies in town here, they're a bit like this, you know, that they come across as very professional. And then when you meet them, and you realise that it's been like that swan, that looks good on the surface, but the legs are paddling like crazy underneath. So I think that's where you're at with a lover. So the transition between schoolboy and lover I think, is one that we're going through now or nearing to the end of I think we've realised a long time ago that we need more systems and more specific roles, and we're putting those in place. But it's very much where we're at. Now, when you say,

Richard Buckle 17:16

yeah, so I definitely identify as a good lover.

David Parry 17:20

Does that mean you're saying like a furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress' eyebrow. 

Richard Buckle 17:24

You'd have to ask Mrs. Buckle. But yeah, no, I think that's yeah, I just can't help myself with these things. I'll be, I'll be told off after this

David Parry 17:33

You will. I hope Mrs. Buckle listens to these podcasts. 

Richard Buckle 17:35

I'm sure she'll listen to this one.

David Parry 17:37

So I think the challenges for management in this stage, they've got to learn to start to let go, yeah, they've got to develop the art of delegation much more. But they still haven't got enough critical mass that everything will be systemized and established. So a lot of decisions are still going to be taken based on people instinctively knowing what the right thing is to do. So the culture is absolutely critical, as it is throughout the life of the company, but you're more reliant upon it now, because you're relying on people to make instinctively the right decisions, rather than follow the rules in inverted commas.

Richard Buckle 18:08

Yeah, I think this and this is probably one of the most, I don't know, is this is this the make or break phase for further growth. So if you can't, if the founder can't get out of that kind of mindset, that I've got to be involved in everything, yeah, then it's going to be very, very hard to move out of this phase really, because it's, it's critical here that that you're starting to trust the team around you a lot more.

David Parry 18:37

You have to, you have to, and I know this may sound self serving, but whether it's for us or others, I found that the companies that take on some form of external advice, to speak that truth to power. Because if you're the boss of a 25, person, firm, then around you, there's lots of people that are looking up to you for that leadership, or the directors generally. And you don't necessarily get as honest feedback as you should. And that's where, you know, either non execs or other business advisors really earn their either pint of beer or, or shilling depending on what type you've taken on. Or not many companies at this stage are yet ready. If you think about this love of being the teenager, as you and I both did at 20. You know everything, don't you? It's only when you get to 30 or 40, you realise how little you knew when you were 20. And indeed still do. But it's very hard to tell a 20 year old to give them advice and steer them unless they're ready for it. And we know a few that have and have been very successful. And I think that's where these companies run the biggest risk that they're riding on the wave. They're doing this one thing, and it's looking good outwardly. And they don't even want to admit to enough external people or even their their colleagues, sometimes even their spouse, that it's all a little bit woo and a little bit wah behind the scenes. They're sort of just about hanging it together. Yeah. And maybe they're doing quite well financially. So people are looking up to them for that reason, the business is successful, and they've got themselves in a nice car or whatever, but it's still very unstable. 

Richard Buckle 19:54

Yeah, I think that and I think that's the point is you've got to have people at that point who are going to give you that frank feedback about, like you say, you're not going to have maybe enough people in the business that are going to give you that, partly because you're still going to be pretty busy at that stage, you've got everyone still, maybe you're starting to specialise in certain areas, but you're probably not going to have an HR manager, you're probably not going to have any certain roles that you think of, like, that's part of a big grown up company

David Parry 20:22

You're probably just gonna find it, you've probably started to take marketing more seriously, to help build the growth engine, yeah, you're gonna have to come up with some solution or finance, maybe not a finance director, or CFO, but maybe maybe you got pretty reasonable financial accounting or management accounting, sorry, internally, and then external advice. So you're starting to build some of those critical functions, you've probably got someone head of sales, if they're not the original owner, or if the original owner is in sales, and someone to do the delivery managing the delivery, you need to split that role. So those sort of roles are appearing. But like you say, you haven't got HR managers yet. And IT managers and facilities managers and highfalutin induction processes and health and safety processes.

Richard Buckle 21:03

And maybe this is the start maybe of where the owner or the board, if there is what you know, couple of people with that kind of you on the balcony, are you on the dance floor. And it's about me, that's when

David Parry 21:15

You're right that starts, but I think it really comes into play in the next one. Yeah. So transitioning then from the lover or teenager into your soldier, you're 20 or something or other. Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel. So the soldier. So that's your classic m of the SME, a medium sized company, 20 to 250 employees. So I know that sounds like quite a wide range. But people go through that reasonably fast, really, the growth of a company from 50 to 200 can happen in a few years. And boy, is that scary, you know, all the extra people and you're just coping with facilities require that you have to move premises and you know, all sorts of systems that suddenly realities quickly. So you're definitely somewhere through that journey take on an HR manager and IT manager, probably health and safety, you got to start having formal training for First Aiders, you might even get unionised at some point through that you might have a canteen. And it's also as a huge amount of growing up done in those 20 Somethings. But it's done now with the maturity of realising you need to do it now, which is something that was missing in the lover, the teenager stage. So you're starting to make it your business now to build the business for growth rather than doing the business. So now we're definitely off the dance floor onto the balcony, we're working on the business, not in the business. And we've seen too many business owners, senior leadership teams reluctant to do that their safe space is doing what they've always done. And if perhaps your your business is only successful, because you're good at doing what you do, to suddenly have to accept that you're good at running a business rather than good at providing the service or the product is a very dangerous step in some people's minds. 

Richard Buckle 22:52

I think I think as well, for many, I got one particular company mind where the founder was, as in often cases, doing a lot of sales, very passionate about the product, and the company grew very, very quickly. But then the systems just weren't really there to help with the growth. And then it was very, very hard to let go of some of those things. And actually trust the team around. And eventually you can find yourself in a situation where you've got this, like, Beast, big beast to feed, but you don't really have much of the supporting infrastructure around it in terms of particularly, maybe you've got the things like you know, your ISO and those sorts of things, but things like CRM, which we've talked about previous podcast, you know, how we communicate how people, you know, we turn up to board meetings, and people be finding out about projects in the board meeting. That's where those sorts of systems, you know, you got to get that culture in really early. Because if you get to that size, that's where it can get scary at that size company, where all of a sudden, you have got these big orders coming in, you have got this high growth, you've got to ramp up recruitment and everything else. But if you haven't got that, kind of, you know, we've got this metronome of even how we meet or how we communicate, or how we all sorts, culture really comes in here.

David Parry 24:14

right? Whereas before it was needed to help steer the decisions. Now it's there to really underpin the growth. And this is where I think we've talked before in previous podcasts about the vision and strategy. A lot of smaller companies think they need to do that because it's just a tick in a box, you know, now and yet to here absolutely need this. Unless you get everybody pointing the same direction. You got 100 200 people will make it up as they go along. Yeah, you got chaos, you know. So you've got to have clear roles and responsibilities, clear reporting structures and meetings and how you hold people to account you need performance management. So those that are in the wrong roles can be developed to be the right role or move elsewhere or even out the company. So there's a lot of more this is really grown up phase now you're not mucking about now 

Richard Buckle 24:56

It's where leadership I think becomes really serious because back in The infant school boy lover sort of phase, maybe, yeah, like, as the leader, you're still going to be quite a lot on show, people are going to know you, you know, you'll probably be able to have a conversation with everyone about you know, how's your kids do blah blah blah, they're going to see you authentically because they're going to be up close, when you're getting up to these, you know, top end of soldier phase, the likelihood of someone having an interaction with the leader is just going to be, it's going to be a maybe a passing 

David Parry 25:26

This is probably the first phase where you probably haven't recruited every single person working for you. And there'll be churn, which is that number of people, you know, there'll be new starters coming in every month, if not every week, and you can't, it's easier at the lower end. But to be able to know everybody's name, person situation, children's names, and so on is harder. So you need to be able to project the values, the vision, the strategy, and everything, as well as taking on all those extra requirements, like, you know, auditing and, and all of that, that comes with ties, 

Richard Buckle 25:56

things like funding starts getting a bit more scary.

David Parry 25:59

Yeah, but But conversely, you are also getting to the point now where maybe you're of interest to external investors. So what's the valuation of the company gets to sort of 10 million plus, so depending on your multiples, you know, you're doing a bit better, you could now start looking maybe for external investment, but that really comes into play in the next stage. So you've got to the top end of M of the SME, the medium sized company. And I think the way that certainly in the UK, the system actually almost spits you out at that point into this mid size mid cap mittelstadt. They call it in Germany. And in the UK, there's lots of support for SMEs, lots of grants are only eligible for SME companies and lots of other things happen around an SME. But when you split out just because got 251 employees, or there's another two requirements on on turnover and balance sheet, and so on, that could take you out of suddenly being eligible for all the support. And yet you're really only just an older soldier. Yeah. So this next phase is our is our justice that we talked about earlier on the one with the fair round belly, which was with the beard. Now this is really where so you're over 250 employees, you're definitely you got a board. Now, you probably need to have split the chairman and chief exec rolls, which you may not have done until this point, if you should have taken governance more seriously already, but you certainly should have done by now you've got to be very careful, you make the right decisions, things like risk registers, and you're looking ahead more lots of these things, by the way should be applicable, lower down in the evolution of a company, but now it's, it's required more. So you're going to be having to report on things that you never thought you'd have to do you know, your modern slavery policy, your gender pay gap reporting, all of these things come into play at this larger stage. And you've got to be prepared to pay some serious money for serious senior team members to run this properly with you and alongside you,

Richard Buckle 27:45

Yeahs you definitely at that point, you're going to need a lot more competence around you like that like and a lot more specialisms, isn't it. So you will need people who can really handle maybe particular regulatory requirements or

David Parry 28:00

They'll be stuff going on, you don't even understand and you got to, you've got to be comfortable that which is a, as a younger company, you've you've never used that before. So you've got to cope with the fact that you'll be taking people you couldn't interview because you don't know their specialism, their field, compliance requirements 

Richard Buckle 28:17

Other factors, you know, maybe start to come into it, like we've seen with some of our clients who are at this stage, and maybe even beyond it, you know, all of a sudden, your local MP takes an interest. 

David Parry 28:27

Yeah, true, and the press. The sort of stuff being talked about your company online suddenly gets noticed. So if people are being a bit nasty on Glassdoor or on social media, then that tends to magnify, you're gonna get more employee claims for accidents. Whereas as a smaller company probably didn't have because there was some sort of loyalty because of you know, whatever small company like service, they knew the damage that you're now seen as a company that is worth sueing, because you can afford?

Richard Buckle 28:53

Or if you're international, then you start to see, well, you know, are you doing business in countries where, you know, that were once flavour of the month, but aren't anymore? Yeah, you got all those issues that start happening? So

David Parry 29:05

There's quite a transition isn't there between the soldier and the justice, it's that really understanding now I'm running a much larger company with a team of specialist people that employ another team of specialist people beneath them? . And without any of them this couldn't work. You know, I'm now here purely as the the chairman or chief exec to make sure that governance is in place, keep a clear handle on the vision and make sure we've got the right team, you know, create the vision build the team, which said that before the

Richard Buckle 29:31

Yeah, maybe there's a there's a huge role there and keeping the purpose, you know why? There'll be a few people there that have been there from the start 

David Parry 29:38

From the beginning. Yeah, employees 1234 Or 5,

Richard Buckle 29:40

then how do you you know, keep that, you know, depending on what your business does depend on what your businesses have, you got to keep that original ethos there, does it sure it will have changed in the sense it will have matured, it will evolve it will have developed, but you've still got to, you know, keep that keep the ship pointing in the right direction in terms Have all of those

David Parry 30:00

stay up on the bridge when everybody else is down in the engine room. And so then conscious of where we're at through, it's still two stages to go. But I don't think we we really need to or want to develop dwell too much on them, because the transitions into them is almost going downhill again. So we've been talking about the growth up to this justice phase, this middle age phase, where you're in your peak earning power, and things are going well. If you go to the next stage, it's starting to go wrong, so that the next one is kind of an old age stage, but in Shakespeare's language is a pantaloon. And the reason he calls it that, I think, is because you start to become a parody of yourself, maybe behind your back initially, but you start to get fun poked out of you, you become a caricature of an older, in his terms person being a company, you can see how that that can translate, because you won't have adopted new systems you won't have taken on younger people's ideas, you won't develop new products or going to new markets, you you the danger is that you become stagnant, and that you don't recruit really senior people who know what they're doing to potentially take your job, you know, any one of these transitions, but here more than ever, you've got to be aware that you may not be cut out to run a company of 500 people, 1000 people 5000 People in the way that you were when it was a startup at 5, 10 or 15. And the chances are, there would have been changes of leadership along the way anyway, perhaps tied into changes of ownership. So this is one way you really don't want to go into it. But if you sent yourself going into this pantaloon old age stage, and I was going on through justice, you're the equivalent of the 60/70 year old in your terms, you've got to now be very focused on succession planning, leaving the legacy, making sure that the business is well funded and directed in the right direction for for growth,

Richard Buckle 31:37

maybe even thinking about changes of organisational structure, just so that, you know, a lot of this happens when almost maybe you start off in that very, you know, infant phase, everyone's excited you move through, it becomes very organic, creative, all of those things, you get to the stage of justice, where it's okay, we're big. Now we've got to start, maybe some of that creativity starts to dry up a little bit, maybe some of the innovation disappears. It's much more formalised and you end up in that pantaloon stage 

David Parry 32:03

Probably to get that size, you've probably developed a few different market specialisms as well. And one of the decisions you might decide to take at this level is to desegregate after split up, or maybe to make acquisitions and integrate more vertically. So there's a couple of strategic big strategic decisions here, which are very hard decisions, it may be to kill off bits of the business entirely, and fail fast. I said earlier, but it's a lot harder when there's 100 people in a division compared to when no jobs will be lost, you just stop doing something. So some hard decisions here to avoid going into old age. If you go beyond that, then you're really into trouble. Because the Shakespeare's seventh phase is the second childhood. This is where you're dribbling in the corner. You're as much dependent on others now, as you were as an infant, the cycle returns back to the beginning and that was his his point of his monologue. And you don't want to go there.

Richard Buckle 32:49

Don't not by the sounds of it. Just read it. This is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. 

David Parry 32:59

Yeah, you lost it all. 

Richard Buckle 33:01

Because yeah, it's gone. You've probably lost the purpose for why, you know, maybe you don't even look like

David Parry 33:06

well, either the business has failed, or it's been taken on by others, and you've been shuffled off out the back door unceremoniously. So you don't want to get into the second childhood phase. This isn't some sort of Great Rebirth Renaissance. This is the, the, you're so dependent on others young, you know, we can imagine what the metaphor looks like as a company. So so the trick is really to keep growing be aware of the transitions up to the point of Shakespeare's justice phase, the middle age, the mature, the responsible compliance, governance, chief exec and Chairman and all that stuff that we talked about, and not let that drift over. It needs to be continuously renewed and new leadership succession planning all those big systems that small companies don't even think about. So as you think we did, did we tie together a business team with Shakespeare?

 Richard Buckle 33:52

I Think so. And so I feel the need for Shakespeare? To be or not to be?

 David Parry 34:00

That will do

Richard Buckle 34:04

Shakespeare to be or not to be or get a bit dramatic if we went to some Macbeth or something. Stick with Hamlet. Am I getting my Shakespeare, To be or not to be?

David Parry 34:19

Yes that something that Shakespeare?

Richard Buckle 34:21

But is it Hamlet?

David Parry 34:22

nobler in the mind suffer the slings and arrows of misfortune. 

Richard Buckle 34:27

It's like a rap battle, but with Shakespearean quotes

David Parry 34:32

There we go and we've waffled on for way too long. The seven stages of man as applied to the evolution of a company and watch mind the gap, it's the transitions that matter. And just have a little think about where you're at. So you've been listening to The SME Growth Podcast and a slightly off the wall Shakespearean themed one to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday 23rd of April. Thanks a lot for listening. Please share, like our podcasts wherever you find them and tell the business colleagues that sometimes we're worth listening to. So Some episodes are better than others, and in the meantime, very best of success for your own business.

 

So for those of you that aren't quite as familiar with the Shakespeare monologue at the beginning of Act Two, scene seven in As You Like It, thought it might be interesting just to add this in as a bit of bonus content. All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first, the infant mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. Then the wining school boy with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school. And then the lover sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, jealous in honour sudden and quick in quarrel seeking the bubble reputation even in the canons mouth. And then the justice in fair round belly with good canon lined with eyes severe and beard of formal cut full of wise sores and modern instances, and so he plays his part. The six age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side, his youthful hose well saved a world too wide for his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice turning again towards childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound. Last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

 

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