As a business owner, you must be prepared to explore unconventional and innovative options to remain competitive. You have to be willing to pivot from the security of structured forecasts and plans to experience business growth. Of course, scaling your operations inherently carries risk. But the right strategy can help you avoid common mistakes so you successfully upscale your company and set it up for a sustainable future.
Small business owners often have to deal with naysayers telling them to be content with what they have. Friends and family will warn against investing in new opportunities because of the risks. Although this principle of contentment works for most of us in our personal lives, it can be crippling to emerging businesses and the entrepreneurial mindset. In fact, businesses that don’t grow may instead wither on the vine and die.
Here are some tips to make the most out of efforts to scale your company, given all the potential risks involved.
When leaving your safety net, planning isn’t the enemy. On the contrary, it’s essential. In fact, even pivoting from plans successfully requires new or alternate plans. That holds true for the strategic scaling of businesses. Having a plan of action will make it easier to maintain your quality performance and implement new operations as you scale up while minimizing your vulnerability to risks and losses. A good starting point is to identify all barriers that could hinder your growth so you can plan how to avoid or overcome them.
Your customers are the determinants of your success. Ensure your customer service quality is undisturbed while you scale your business. It helps to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and consider how actions in your business scaling plan would affect you as a client. You don’t need to restructure your whole business model to keep your customers happy; as long as you anticipate their needs at each stage of the scaling process, they can become your biggest brand ambassadors and maximize your returns.
When it comes to expanding your firm (and keeping that expansion in check), the cliche is true: Time is money. Make sure all activities for scaling and growth are time-bound.
More often than not, unanticipated urgent tasks tend to pick the worst times, like during expansion and scaling, to present themselves. To make sure your team remains efficient throughout the growth process – and can accommodate last-minute changes or deviations in schedules and tasks – make use of time management tools and strategies to get the best out of the time you have.
Train your team to develop time-management skills. There are many applications and software programs to choose from to make sure your company’s time is well spent, including Microsoft Project, ClickUp and TaskQue. Hiring a project manager could also help.
Big data refers to the process of analyzing large and varied amounts of data in great detail to expose specific information, like market trends, customer preferences, hidden patterns and unknown correlations. It allows you to make informed decisions on the dimensions of your expansion.
A comprehensive understanding of big data and its usage can help you avoid losses and make better decisions for your business scaling and growth. It can also be valuable for identifying and eliminating underlying bottlenecks in your operations, thereby increasing internal efficiency.
No matter how prepared you feel, any change in an organization will require a period of adjustment for the rest of your team. Give them time to recognize the need for change and accept the challenges that this opportunity provides. More importantly, they need time to understand their roles in the bigger picture of your company’s plans to scale and figure out how they can make the most of their skill sets and add value to the business’s new direction. Make sure to consider adjustment protocols and allocate a reasonable time period for such adjustments in your scaling plans and process.
Large corporations usually have change leaders in place to determine practical plans and execute systematic implementation. Predicting the pace of your company’s adaptation to change will require an in-depth understanding of your team. Sometimes the best way is to consult and negotiate with your staff on your plans to scale. Welcome feedback and concerns from them, encouraging open channels of communication to better understand their points of view. This will help you anticipate their adjustment pace and garner their support in your expansion.
One opportunity that comes with scaling operations is the ability to identify weak links in your organization. While it’s important to consider your team’s feedback and opinions about when and how you should scale, it’s equally important to monitor their performance while the scaling takes place. Scaling up with a team that’s highly resistant to change or incompetent isn’t likely to result in much progress; it could actually be counterproductive.
Getting to know your team better will provide insights into your people’s capacities, skills and character that can be useful for making decisions about the company’s future and maximizing your growing organization’s potential. By having a clear understanding of your people, organizational values and customers’ expectations, you’ll be in a better position to decide when to scale and how to go about it. Gathering anonymous feedback can be a powerful tool for this.
It’s no secret that a team’s performance is a reflection of its leadership. Any increase in operations and production will necessitate an expansion of your staff at one point or another. When this happens, you’ll want dependable leaders who believe in your long-term vision and have your back.
Hire people you can trust with your brand and who can live up to their responsibilities. It helps to reward people at all rungs of the ladder for their ability to take ownership of ideas and tasks and make employees feel appreciated. During company crises and times of change, you need to be able to count on people who not only get the job done, but also understand the importance of your vision and go the extra mile to bring it to life.
It isn’t easy to hand over something you’ve built from scratch to another person, no matter how skilled they might be. Still, the successful scaling of a business often requires a bit of decentralization and automation. Despite the difficulty it entails for new entrepreneurs, it facilitates business growth and enables decision-makers to focus on strategic objectives. By showing your team that you trust their insights and decisions, you reinforce the idea that your business is the right place for them to grow and pursue a long-term career plan.
Likewise, by taking advantage of workflow automation tools, you’ll be able to spend more time and money on more productive and vital activities rather than stressing over carrying out minor repetitive tasks. The idea is to automate daily processes, such as social media marketing, email marketing, customer relationship management and lead generation. See our recommendations for the best email marketing services and top CRM software for products to consider implementing.
Scaling a successful business involves using small stepping stones, such as setting up an action plan and taking advantage of emerging technology, to create a sustainable foundation for growth.
Just as the tips above can steer you in the right direction as you embark on upscaling your business, there are certain actions that could push you off course. Below are the missteps to avoid.
Businesses should focus on hiring the right people, especially for positions of power. Does the potential employee have similar morals akin to your company’s values? What are their personal goals, and does their vision fit the organization’s mission? Invest in people who are willing to invest their time into your company long term so they can add to, not detract from, your growth efforts.
You might think scaling your business as quickly as possible will result in even more growth and positivity for your brand. However, this mindset favors profit over product quality and customer service experience. Your customers will likely recommend your product and company if they have had a pleasant buying experience. That gives you long-term sustainability versus being a flash in the pan. [Learn more about growing a business too quickly.]
It’s easier to keep track of your finances if you have a small business. But as your company scales, staying on top of the numbers, including profit margins, sales conversions, projections and taxes, is crucial. Hiring a CPA on a full- or part-time basis can help take the pressure off and allow you to focus on other responsibilities. You should also invest in high-quality accounting software to help maintain orderly financial records.
It might be tempting to use sales projections to grow your business. However, anticipated sales don’t always happen at the rate you expect them to, potentially leaving you with too many employees and poor cash flow. Play it safe and only expand your business based on existing numbers, not predictions. [Find out why you should maintain a startup mindset as you scale.]
Facebook was initially launched for Harvard students only, then expanded to college students at other schools and eventually became available globally. Although it might seem like the social media platform scaled quickly and was suddenly everywhere, these changes occurred over a period of years.
A solid leadership team will boost employee morale and produce the best output for the company during times of normal operations and times of expansion. Scaling your company involves hiring new managers with the skills needed for the way your business is growing. A leader with the right skills and vision can achieve exceptional results, but poor leadership will get you the opposite.
Upscaling your business might throw you out of your comfort zone as uncomfortable situations present themselves. This can include problems with staff, processes or products. You need to address issues as soon as they arise instead of letting them sit on the back burner, where they can fester and create larger headaches in the future.
Scaling operations at some point is inevitable for most successful businesses, and risky decisions need to be made for survival and growth. That said, you should still take measures to minimize the risks and make sure your growth efforts are substantiated. By implementing the right strategies and keeping clear of common pitfalls, you can reduce inefficiencies and increase your chances of scaling up your business successfully.
Sean Peek contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.