By Marcia Heroux Pounds
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Many businesses are in the “too big to be small and too small to be big” space, or what one expert refers to as “no man’s land.” Women in business need to ask themselves whether their company can be profitable at a bigger scale. If not, the business might be better off staying small.
South Florida’s small- to medium sized businesses have a critical decision to make, according to Doug Tatum, entrepreneur-in-residence at The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at Florida State University.
Many businesses are in the “too big to be small and too small to be big” space, what Tatum calls “no man’s land.” Tatum said the CEO needs to ask whether the company can be profitable at a bigger scale. If not, the business might be better off staying small.
At a meeting Thursday of local CEOs who belong to executive coaching organization Vistage, company leaders said they have been weighing growth challenges: new opportunities after the recession, ever-changing technologies and the financial and hiring decisions it takes to become a big business.
Tatum said those who decide to expand their businesses better know how that larger company can stay in tune with customers and remain profitable. Otherwise, they may end up in “no man’s land.”
“Then you’re in deep trouble,” warned Tatum ,who wrote a book on the subject: “No Man’s Land: Where Growing Companies Fail,” published by Portfolio in 2007.
Three South Florida businesses who are Vistage members said they have faced that decision to move to the next level.
Ron Antevy, co-founder of construction management software company e-Builder in Plantation, said his business has grown about 20 times over to a $50 million business since he became a member of Vistage.
“You need to have systems and processes and the right leadership in place,” he said.
Antevy said he has been focused on building the company’s systems and leadership. One example: With a growing number of remote employees across the country, e-Builder recently added a “hoteling” cubicle concept so remote employees have a place to work when they come to the home office.
“We’re running out of space. It’s a good problem to have,” he said.
Kenneth Lebersfeld, CEO of retailer Capitol Lighting in Boca Raton, suffered through Florida’s housing crisis and the national recession like many of his colleagues in his industry. But the business survived and now is expanding with two stores opening in Fort Lauderale and in Doral.
“It feels good to be growing again,” he said.
Lebersfeld has taken the opportunity to bring some new people on board. He said there have been both natural transitions and some hard choices in transitioning leadership.
Tatum said CEOs face a difficult period in hiring and firing decisions, when they decide they can make the leap to becoming a big company.
“The biggest issue is the ticket to your inner circle changes from loyalty to performance,” Tatum said.
Sometimes, that means bringing in new talent — perhaps a key person at a competitor. “Someone who has already made the mistakes. It speeds up and lowers the risk of decision-making,” he said.
Scott Hoffmire, founder and CEO of Source 1 Purchasing in Boynton Beach, said the recession actually presented a growth opportunity for his restaurant and hotel supply company. Vendors “were looking for opportunities to save money,” he said.
Now Source 1 has operations in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Kansas — and recently opened in California — serving major hotel chains including Best Western and Country Inn and Suites.
But before Hoffmire and his management team ramped up hiring about 18 months ago, they sat down and revisited the company’s key values — then chose new hires around that.
Then they launched a referral program, offering a bonus to employees who referred someone who fit those values and they decided to hire.
Hoffmire said 90 percent of the company’s new employees came from that program.