When he launched the electronic recycling business e-Cycle, Christopher Irion was confronted with how to continue triple-digit growth while building a best-in-class culture for the company. Seven years later, that’s still his major challenge.
“I feel blessed that we can grow over 100 percent per year, but as opportunistic as growth is, it's also a big challenge for us.”
Irion realized that the solution was to find the right infrastructure.
“One part is getting a management structure in place to support growth,” says Irion, CEO. “As an example, when we had one account manager who reported up to me, it worked fine. But now we have 85 employees, so we have more supervisors. So putting the right management structure in place to allow for growth was key.”
Smart Business talked with Irion about finding the passion and the right people to overcome growing pains.
Q. What are some of the steps in managing growth? How far do you look ahead?
A. From a managing standpoint, you need to look six to 12 months out in addressing growth issues. So knowing that you may have triple digit-growth again next year, you know that based upon that, you are going to be getting — in our instance — more than 20,000 to 30,000 phones on a daily basis. You need to start putting the infrastructure, the people, the processes in place today in order to not get bogged down knowing what is coming ahead.
Q. So you add more supervisors and processes to deal with growth, but how do you find employees who can deal with it too?
A. You have to constantly recruit. In the interviewing process, the way you look at it is you are not interviewing a prospective employee. It's a 50-50 equation. They are interviewing you as much as you are interviewing them. So when you sit down and recruit employees, you are not looking at it like it is just a decision to bring them onboard. You communicate this as you tell them that to be a good cultural fit, you want them to ask you just as many interviewing questions about what you do and why they should come work for you as you ask of them why you would want to bring them onboard.
So with that, you determine that for any employee-employer relationship to work out well, expectations need to be set and prospective employees need to understand what your goals are and what your culture is, and this is the type of place that is a mutual fit for both parties.
Q. Is there an essential attribute that a company founder needs to have when building a company?
A. When you are first starting a company, you're not sure if it's even going to get off the ground, or you may be working until 2 a.m. every night, because there's only one or two of you who are even at the company. And you're wondering a year down the road whether you can make payroll or not, or how you're even going to find your first client.
It's that passion and that love you have for what you do that is going to get you through the founding of the company. When you are sitting in front of your first prospective client, they are going to see that passion in your heart and in your eyes, and you're probably going to win them over, because if you are as passionate about what you're trying to accomplish, then that passion is not only going to spill over to your clients, but it is going to help you recruit people to join your company and share with that passion you are trying to accomplish.
When you hire someone, the training is all around who you are, what you do and what your belief system is — what are your core values of the company. First and foremost — and every company says this but I don't essentially think it's true all the time — always do what's in your client’s best interests and build that within your culture.
How to reach: e-Cycle, (877) 215-5255 or www.e-cycle.com