Scaling your business can be a very exciting endeavor. In addition to increasing your revenue, the growth of your company could also mean that you’re able to serve more people and make a bigger impact on your community.
However, business growth can also be stressful, as it requires you to invest tremendous capital, time, and energy in your company. If you’re not careful, your business could give way to growing pains.
Prevent that by taking the following steps:
Set up a solid business processes
In his book Built to Sell, author John Warrillow emphasized the importance of creating a process for how you conduct business. As an example, he talked about how the owner of a fictional design firm condensed and documented their logo creation system into a 5-step process.
The business owner thought about what he and his clients go through when launching a logo design project, and put his thought process and steps on paper. This exercise enabled him to create a 1-page sheet that he could pitch to clients.
What’s more, documenting his process also made it easier for the business owner to delegate projects to the rest of this team, thus freeing up his time to scale — and eventually sell — his design firm.
Now, you may not be planning to put your business up for sale anytime soon, but establishing processes in your company is critical for growth. Documenting your systems increases your efficiency and empowers your team to be independent. This, in turn, gives you more freedom to focus on high-level tasks for strategy and growth.
“Designing and documenting a business’ processes is something every entrepreneur must do in order to grow,” says Randy Hayashi, COO at Payment Depot.
He adds that when taking this step, you should make sure that the processes you have in place will work just as well when volume increases. “Your current systems may work well when you’re getting 10 orders a day, but what about when you hit 50 or 100 orders?” he says.
Chris Guillot, founder at Merchant Method, agrees. “The healthiest way to scale a small business is to build on top of a solid foundation. This often means ensuring your processes and systems are repeatable, transferable, uncomplicated, and flexible enough to accommodate the growth you’re looking for.”
According to her, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to rely on workarounds, manual processes, loose operational guidelines, and murky business values.
“More business often magnifies these issues, which can stunt your growth,” Guillot adds.
Be obsessed with your customers
When you’re scaling your business, a deep understanding of your customer base will help you figure out the best strategy for growth — and how to implement it.
Case in point: Davis Tool, a custom manufacturing company in Hillsboro, OR.
When CEO Ron Davis started noticing companies outsourcing their manufacturing to China, he knew that there was a good chance that his customers would soon turn overseas for their manufacturing needs.
To address this, Davis decided to shift his company’s approach “to offer quick turnaround on custom or low-volume jobs.” Part of implementing that strategy involved profiling his customers to determine which clients would benefit most from the their new approach.
This move allowed Davis to identify the people he should be serving and helped refine the strategy. As a result, the company became more efficient, reducing its flow time from 40 days to 17, and it even enabled Davis Tool to expand into new markets and clients.
Whether or not you already have a strategy for growth, strive to be more customer-centric in your business. Perhaps, like Davis Tool, you already know how you want to scale, in which case you need to figure out which customers would benefit most from your strategy.
If you don’t have a solid plan yet, being customer-focused will make it easier to determine the best path for growth.
Get a handle on your finances
It’s all too easy to lose track of your finances when you’re in growth mode. Just take a look at what happened to the theatre group Murder Mystery Company, when they started to expand.
According to Inc.com, company founder Scott Crampton temporarily lost track of his business’ spending as they scaled. “Incidental expenses–for gas, props, costumes, and copying playbills–were out of control, reaching as high as $8,000 a month in total,” reported Inc.
What’s more, managers at the Murder Mystery Company “were traveling around the country putting out fires, which costs the company as much as $10,000 a month for airline tickets, hotels, and rental cars.”
You may find yourself in a similar situation as you go through the process of scaling your business.
To address such issues, get yourself a trusty professional who can help you stay on top of your finances. You should also arm yourself with the right accounting and bookkeeping software that can automatically track and organize your business expenses.
In the case of the Murder Mystery Company, Crampton’s in-house IT staff developed a personalized accounting system that ran on tablets, which he distributed to his staff in the field. This allowed him to track the credit card activity of his employees and decreased spending by 75%.
What about you? Are you keeping an eye on your business finances? It’s imperative that you track the numbers, particularly as you gear up for growth. Hire a good accountant/bookkeeper and use financial technology to stay on top of everything.
This brings us to our next tip…
Arm yourself with the right technology
If there’s one more big takeaway from Crampton’s story above, it’s that having the right software can be pivotal to your growth. Scaling your business means having more sales, customers, transactions, and employees, and you’ll need to have the infrastructure to support all that.
Like the Murder Mystery Company, you can develop your own in-house solution to fit your requirements. That said, this option may not be possible if you don’t have a huge budget. Fortunately, there are numerous SaaS and cloud-based systems for just about every business need.
Whether you’re looking to implement new accounting software for staying on top of your finances, or you’re in need of a CRM to help you manage your growing customer base, you can easily find software options to choose from.
The challenge lies in selecting the right solution. You need to vet software providers thoroughly, to ensure that they’re a good fit for your business and they can support your growth.
Here are some of the steps we recommend you take when shopping around for business software:
- Speak to a live person from the company to evaluate their support staff
- Consult with fellow entrepreneurs to see what solutions worked for them
- Check out software marketplaces and review sites to gain unbiased insights into various solutions
- Speak with technology consultants to determine the best software for your business
Have the right team in place
Growing pains is a very real issue when you’re scaling your business. The process will shake up your company and put your team to the test.
As Hayashi puts it, “when your business grows rapidly, it can get uncomfortable on your cash flows, operations, and employees. That’s why mental toughness is so important for the founder and their team”
So how can you navigate these tough times? According to Hayashi, aside from having solid processes, entrepreneurs need to have the right team in place. “Increased business can lead to increased friction within your organization if you don’t have the right people and culture,” he adds.
For this reason, it’s essential that you hire and nurture the right people. Here are a few best practices to help you do this:
Hire for attitude, train for skill – While it’s important to assess a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and experiences, their attitude, emotional intelligence, and values are just as — if not more — important. As Bruce Nordstrom famously said, “We can hire nice people and teach them to sell, but we can’t hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.”
This isn’t to say that you should hire someone totally unqualified just because they have a great attitude. But just bear in mind that while knowledge and skills can be taught, someone’s natural disposition is harder to shift.
Don’t immediately disregard a candidate if they don’t tick all the boxes in terms of skills. Evaluate their disposition, cultural fit, and trainability. If they come out strong in theses areas, consider giving them a chance.
Tap into your top talent – Already got amazing employees? Chance are, they know people who are just as good. If you’re looking to grow your team, start by asking your top performers for referrals.
Build an attractive company – The best way to “find” great employees is to attract them to your organization, which is why you should strive to create an amazing company. Foster a culture that empowers your staff, and get the world out on all the good things you’re doing. When the public sees how great your company is, you won’t have to go looking for great people — they’ll naturally come to you.
On getting employees to stick around:
Aside from offering good pay and benefits, the following steps can help ensure your employees stick around through turbulent times of growth:
Pave the way for career development – Get to know your employees’ career aspirations and craft a plan to help them achieve their goals. This may include investing in their training and providing educational resources.
Be sure to regularly check in on their progress. Use a tool like this career development template which details where the employee is at their current career level, where they want to go, and what they need to get there.
Reward loyalty – The growth process can be a rough time. In certain cases, it may be worth providing incentives that encourage employees to stick around. You can do this by offering bonuses as they stay longer in your company and by granting promotions to deserving employees.
Have you experienced any challenges with scaling your business? How did you overcome them? Let us know in the comments.