How can you ride the internal disruption wave to the shores of a profitable business?
How can you ride the internal disruption wave to the shores of a profitable business?

Online Retailer Spreadshirt on Navigating the Awkward Growth Years

Disruption is seen as a force for good, especially if you’re the new start-up overturning an established industry. Fresh ideas, new working styles and shiny technology can change the world.

But what if that disruption is internal? It’s not just corporates that experience disordering. There can be an awkward growth phase in a (retail) business as it moves from a nimble upstart towards the steady growth of an established company.

How can you ride the internal disruption wave to the shores of a profitable business?

At Spreadshirt, we’ve just been through our period of internal disruption. Our on-person, self-expression retail platform has grown from a start-up to a €100m international grown-up and seen a few changes along the way.

Like most disrupted businesses, we didn’t necessarily see it coming, but we did learn from it. We had to respond nimbly, challenge ourselves to change and learn how to communicate again. We had to recognise shifting priorities, realise that we’re not invincible and manage internal resistance.

Recognise shifting priorities

While you’re busy growing the business, the business is itself often changing. You can no longer have your eye on everything and management concepts, or significant operational problems can creep up on you while you’re prioritising something else. Of course, this is normal, but it can make you doubt your approach. For us, this was focusing on quick wins and future-oriented projects above the issue of our legacy technology. We overstretched ourselves and had to take a step back. The plus side of this is that our team built a new system, which is future-proof and can grow with us.

This is where you need someone with a bit of perspective, one of those investors or advisors you have on board. They’ve probably seen it all before and give you the wisdom of their experience. While you’re head down in the engine of the business, they can take a broader look at the road in front and the bumps that might be coming down the line.

At the same time, as a business leader, you may…