Advance Financial is a fast-growing company with high standards of service for both our customers in the community and our company as a whole. What started as a family-run business with less than 10 employees has grown into a national company with more than 800 – and we’re still growing!
When your company experiences significant growth like ours, it becomes even more important to remember the fundamental principles you followed as a small business. One such principle is open and free communication within the company. This is a system of communicating that can be forgotten the larger a company grows.
Some bigger companies prefer to take a strict “chain of command” approach to communication – where information flows up from the employee to a hierarchy of managers and back down again. When you are running a small business, the “chain of command” is not nearly as long as that of a larger company. In some cases, it’s nonexistent. Ideas have the opportunity to flow freely through all individuals within the company, and communication is very open and constantly moving. Everyone is in it together and working for the good of the company. Once you reach a level where you have multiple departments and managers, this open flow of communication can be lost.
Despite our considerable growth, at Advance Financial we work hard to keep the same level of open communication we had as a small business. Even our corporate office and call center are set up to support free flowing communication with an open floor plan. No team member, myself included, has an office quarantined by walls and a door. When an issue or question arises, we encourage all employees to talk to anyone they need to in order to find a solution. Our managers and leadership team do have the responsibility of approving decisions, but we firmly believe they are not the only ones who have all the answers.
Mistakes are acceptable and expected when a business is growing quickly. It is a core principle of ours to encourage our employees to be open about a mistake they’ve made, rather than believe they are not allowed to make one. We are all human and will make errors from time to time. And we don’t want our teams to be afraid to try new things – in fact, it’s the opposite. We look for people who are willing to proactively come up with ways to improve our company and help our customers.
Sometimes those bold new things don’t work. What’s important is owning up to our mistakes, learning from them and quickly correcting them. That’s another reason why we prefer open communication among all levels within the company: In the event of a mistake, our employees are encouraged to talk to anyone necessary to find the right solution, get the authority to make the fix and put it in motion.
At the end of the day, what’s most important is to have everyone working together for the good of the company, not themselves. It is dangerous when managers create silos within a company that foster an “us versus them” mentality, which is a natural tendency that we must actively fight as leaders. This is why, at Advance Financial, we say, “Never place blame, always own it.” We just do not have time for such a mentality at our company. Instead, we ensure everyone remembers that we are working for the good of our business as a whole, not an individual department or person.
Keeping a small business mindset can be extremely effective, no matter the size of the company. Encouraging free communication and allowing room for error are principles we are living every day, and our company continues to grow leaps and bounds because of it.