Growing your company can take on many different forms and meanings. For example, you can move from a sole-proprietorship to another form of a legal entity like a partnership, LLC, or corporation. Each has distinct tax advantages depending on where you project your growth to be in the future. However, the real challenge is making sure your business culture aligns with your future goals. Too often, a company can outgrow its own business culture, which can impact customer opinion of the company.
Some companies’ growth can impact the company’s perception in positive ways, such as with Apple computers. As Apple branched out its company from a personal computer company to personal devices, phones, and streaming entertainment, the consumer perception has grown positively with each iteration.
Occasionally growth can redefine a business in ways that change the company’s original culture and definition, such as when Coca-Cola wanted to expand its market and introduced a new version of Coke. It went over like a lead balloon, and soon Coca-Cola had to discontinue the product but not without some consumer loss of confidence.
Another area where growth can have the unintended consequence of impacting how consumers identify with a business is restaurant chains. There are ways to expand and grow your business without selling out. That perception occurs when companies aren’t proactive in planning their growth to align with their company values. Those changes can impact how consumers perceive the business and put their business at a disadvantage if not careful.
The Cheesecake Factory Story
Take a look at restaurant chains that started small. There are countless options to examine, but let’s focus on the story of The Cheesecake Factory.
The Cheesecake Factory was once a small family-owned bakery in Detroit that shuttered rather quickly when the owner Evelyn Overton focused on raising her two children. Years later, Evelyn and the family relocated to Los Angeles and started a local restaurant with the encouragement of her family and neighbors.
After a couple of years, the family decided to begin expanding. While the food never changed much, the mood and culture shifted from personalized service and high-quality food to becoming a “turn-and-burn” restaurant business. Over time, the high turnover volume in staffing has made the chain less personable and inviting. As a result, customer perception of The Cheesecake Factory is more about the food than a neighborhood gathering spot and restaurant.
The growth of the Cheesecake Factory isn’t meant as a cautionary tale. It just goes to show that as a company grows, it may be challenging to keep the original culture that helped build the business in the first place.
As you plan to grow your business to scale, you need to prepare for how to match your company’s growth with its operational needs. For example, if you’re manufacturing small widgets that work with hand-held vacuums, the production and logistics will need to be prepared to match your sales growth. You would need to create a plan that would include:
- Staffing increases
- Inventory management
- Warehousing and production equipment
- Order fulfillment
- Shipping and other logistical processes like barcode scanning
- Added accounting practices to track accounts and billing
Adding those operational expansions can be costly and take time to implement. Finding manufacturing software that can incorporate all those functions while quickly scaling as you grow is crucial to maintaining efficiencies in your production and deliverables.
Growing your business is more than simply scaling up in sales. There is a whole slew of operational integrations that need to occur to keep you functioning smoothly. Any disruption in your operations can impact your company culture, and impacts on your culture can affect consumer perception.
The issue with changing your company culture is that you may lose the one thing that was your unique selling position, as in the case with New Coke, can change the definition of your business, as in the case with The Cheesecake Factory, or can be a smooth transition as you scale your business upward.
The key is how you plan your growth to align with your culture, and having systems to support both your growth and culture is crucial for maintaining public perception and consumer confidence in your business.