6. Set growth limits Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2009

Every business leader wants to grow his or her company, but Jaideep Bajaj understands that when your growth — and company’s success — relies upon your ability to create accountability around collaboration, something unexpected can harm you: adding too many new people.

Bajaj’s company, ZS Associates Inc., had a year when it grew nearly 50 percent — far surpassing the $250 million management consulting firm’s 20 percent a year average. Upon closer review, Bajaj, the managing director, realized it was the firm’s weakest effort to date.

“Of course, financially, it was a great year,” he says. “But the more we looked back at it, the more we said, ‘You know, I think our customers gave us a break.’”

Thereafter, Bajaj and other senior leaders capped the company’s growth capability for one year, even if it meant turning down projects.

“Internally, we feel that we never want to grow more than 25 to 30 percent because that almost breaks our back,” he says. “And, cumulatively in our history, we’ve done about 20 percent per year, and we think we can manage that in a very healthy fashion, but the years that we crossed 30, we could feel the stress in our quality.”

That breaking point was established by understanding how important it is to mix people experienced with your company’s expectations in with new hires — regardless of the new hire’s industry experience.

“It’s really about growth long term and not about one breakout year where you just hire lots and lots of rookies,” Bajaj says. “Even if you hire experienced hires, they are still rookies in our practice areas and the expectation of customers from us.”