Corporate Fast Track

Women CEOs

Application of Sophisticated Management Practices

Apply sophisticated management practices for fast growth.

Apply sophisticated management practices for fast growth.

Advice for Women in Leadership

This article series addresses the characteristics of high-achieving women entrepreneurs and fast growth businesses. In this article we focus on the application of sophisticated management practices.

What constitutes a sophisticated management practice?

As the founder and president of the Women Presidents’ Organization, I’ve had the unique opportunity to learn from successful, fast-growth entrepreneurs over the last 11 years. In this role, I’ve discovered that regardless of their level of education in business, the most successful over time apply what are commonly referred to as “sophisticated” management practices.

To clarify, “sophisticated management practices” are those developmental and management strategies that create structure, internal effectiveness and financial stability. High-achieving women entrepreneurs make a distinguished effort to focus both on their on their companies’ internal dynamics as well as financial management. The benefit of this focus is two-fold; it provides a means of assessment of the company as it grows and allows for and incorporates appropriate change into the growth process.

About financial management...
I mentioned the importance of investing in professional advisors in our last piece, but I want to reiterate the importance of understanding your financials and managing the company with that information. Turning over your finances to a professional advisor can help, but it won’t grow your company on its’ own. Understanding the information provided to you and using it appropriately is what will provide a high-growth track.

About organizational structure...
Clearly defined and updated divisions of labor are the single most important part of a company’s organizational structure. It is imperative to maintain regularly updated employee roles and responsibilities as well as to create departmental divisions. This process of continual review and revision of the company structure will make the growth flexible, keep employees on task and provide room for expansion. The more clearly defined a company’s employee responsibilities, the easier it will be for employees to adapt to new challenges and needs as the company develops.

In addition, internal structural reviews provide an opportunity for employees to voice feedback on the growth of their own position and input on their role in the future.  While you want to be sure you are focusing on the mission of your organization, frequently employee insight is one key to a company’s success. Indeed, they may be able to highlight inconsistencies and point out fruitless expenditures on a day-to-day basis. In this sense, employees are able to focus on the administration of day-to-day business while you will be free to focus on the overall mission and leading the company. This buy-in from employees is very important; it promotes team development and cohesiveness.

WPO member Jennifer Kuntz, is the president of Greenleaf JTS, Inc. and has had tremendous success through careful management of her company’s organizational structure. Two years ago, Kuntz reviewed and reorganized the company structure “designing each department as an independent profit center.” According to Kuntz, “The impact was astounding. Each department became a much stronger unit.” In fact, “a powerful side effect was the friendly competition between departments which ensued.” Since the reorganization, Greenleaf has experienced unprecedented growth, but it is important to recognize that the best corporate structure is the one tailored to your company. Where Kuntz was most successful was being able to analyze her business and her employees and in creating a structure that encouraged the growth of both.

Internal dynamics and corporate culture
Every company, whether it is intentional or not, has a distinct corporate culture, regardless of how many employees it maintains. As the president and CEO it is imperative that you set the company culture and hire accordingly.

Since 1984, WPO member Andrea Schrager of Meadowlands Consumer Center Marketing Research has grown her company from two employees to over sixty. She has navigated through three expansions and the opening of a new office in New York City in 2007. According to Schrager, the most important challenges she faced were “adding new employees while maintaining the corporate culture, offering new opportunities to long-time employees, and integrating staff between New Jersey and New York City offices.”  

Her experience has taught her that, in order to be successful in this endeavor, a leader must “involve employees at all levels, departments and locations. Decisions cannot be dictated from above nor can cooperation be mandated. [Meadowlands has] on-going committees whose members represent all facets of the company. These committees help shape policies and procedures that are consistent with our corporate culture – from internal communications to marketing and new product development, work schedules and flex time to company-wide events.”

WPO members Sherrie Aycock and Tara Olson of AllPoints Research, Inc. have made a point to foster a corporate culture based on “respect, support, discovery, pride, intelligence and integrity.” Aycock says that through support and staff workshops based on co-production and talent-based organizations, AllPoints has grown into a culture of “innovative enterprise and working together for their clients.”

Pulling it all together
A company infrastructure and corporate culture are indelibly intertwined and must be treated as such. For those presidents and CEOs who have been able to navigate their business growth and retain employees, it is one of the most important aspects of their businesses. Last, but certainly not least, employees who show an interest in their growth at the company, will also show an interest in the growth of the company as a whole. 

Written originally for by Marsha Firestone, president, WPO.

Read other articles in this series (Traits of Top Women Entrepreneurs and Investment in Professional Advisors) by clicking on the article titles below.

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What challenges do you face within your company infrastructure? Have you designed your structure in a unique/novel way?

M. Firestone — President, WPO

About the Author

The Women Presidents' Organization

The Women Presidents' Organization, 

is a non-profit membership organization for women presidents' of multimillion dollar companies. Members of the WPO take part in professionally-facilitated peer advisory groups in order to coax the 'genius out of the group' and grow their businesses to the next level. The WPO is headquartered in New York City and currently boasts over 75 active chapters and over 1000 members across the United States and in Canada. There are two primary membership options: Chapter and Member-At-Large. Each chapter meets monthly, consists of 10-20 women presidents/CEOs/Managing Directors/etc, and is moderated by a professionally-trained facilitator. Chapters are not permitted to have more than one business in the same industry represented. At-Large Membership is created for women whose schedules make it impossible for them to commit to monthly meetings, or for areas in which the WPO does not yet have a chapter.

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