To a lot of start-up owners, growth is a universally good thing. You’re a small business now, and you want all the financial stability and branding strength of a large one. Naturally, this means that once you stimulate enough growth, everything else will fall into place, right? Well, not quite. If your start-up has experienced a lot of rapid growth recently, you’ll know that it’s something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’ll have better profit margins and a stronger platform for making a name for yourself. On the other, you’ll have to take care of a lot of scaling, which will mean managerial and organizational changes. Regardless of what your period of growth has done to your business, you need to be able to sustain these challenges. Here’s a guide to managing a rapidly expanding business…
Have a Medium-Term Goal, and Stick to It
Photo courtesy of Dafne Cholet via flickr
When you drew up your business plan, it’s pretty much a given that you set a range of short and long-term goals, but what about medium-term ones? When business owners totally overlook any medium-term milestones, it can cause all kinds of scaling problems which will come back to bite them in the future. Every good business plan should have a long-term vision and mission, which you’ll ultimately want your business to reach. You’ll need a wider range of medium-term objectives, which will support that end-goal vision, and are usually milestones set five to three years down the line. Then, there are short-term plateaus you should keep in mind – skills, accomplishments and experiences which you can achieve realistically in the next year. A lot of people at the heads of growing businesses become too wrapped up in the long-term, and change the direction of their venture far too frequently. Set yourself some medium-term goals, and stick to them!
Keep Your Customers Happy
You should be placing a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction no matter what stage your business is in, but it’s especially important to make sure you’re not getting distracted by scalability. Your customers are the people who will come up with the most relevant ideas, the most immediate feedback, and in today’s social media-oriented world, they’re increasingly happy to help. No matter how rapidly or drastically your business is changing, don’t sacrifice a formal process for constantly listening to customers, and acting on their input. Aside from holding an ear to the ground, you also need to make sure that you can keep a handle on delivery, back-end support systems, and order fulfillment in the midst of all this chaos. If your customers become dissatisfied with your performance, you’re going to have a very hard time retaining them, and continuing to grow at a healthy rate.
Think About Finances
As your business expands at a fast rate, there are a range of financial implications which all need to be taken into consideration. As your business becomes larger and larger, your cash flow is going to become strained before it gets any better, so it’s a good idea to look for ways to save as much as possible. Recover any outstanding debts promptly, decrease prices wherever it’s practical, consider refinancing and borrowing money, offer up some rewards for prompt or upfront payments, and eliminate as much unnecessary overhead as possible. You may also be able to draw some savings from incorporating your business or registering it as a certain type of company. This can be done through services like yourcompanyformations.co.uk – registered formation agent . As more and more factors are added to your cash flow, you need to make it a priority to understand and manage those factors, and eventually manage all your income and outgoings with a “big picture” mindset. Financial growing pains have ended countless promising businesses over the years – don’t let yours become one of them!
Find a Good Mentor
Finding a good mentor, with a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur or executive in your field, can take a huge amount of the weight off your shoulders. You’ll be able to reap the benefit of their years in the business, and the advice of someone who’s been in the same position as you in the past. When you imagine a great entrepreneur, you probably don’t see someone who’s constantly asking for advice. However, you shouldn’t let your pride get in the way of the potential success of your business! Some of the most successful businessmen in recent history have developed on the advice of a mentor. Bill Gates had Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs. I don’t care how smart you are, or how disruptive your business idea is, find a mentor if it’s possible!
Surround Yourself with a Great Team
Photo courtesy of Link Humans via flickr
Continuing on this theme of not thinking of yourself as a one-man-band, surrounding yourself with team members who are significantly smarter than you is essential for anyone who’s at the head of a fast-growing company. No matter how good your product, service or strategy is, if you don’t have a good team behind you, the rapid growth of your business can quickly become overwhelming. If the departments at your company are growing faster than you can handle, then choose the best minds you have available and give them positions as the heads of their departments. By doing this, you’ll be able to free up your time and invest it in your overall strategy. As these people become more familiar with their departments and senior roles, you should keep them in the loop about more executive decisions. Make them a part of the hiring process, and anything else that could impact their role.
Take Away While You Add
A lot of business owners think that once their company grows enough, they’ll have a lot more freedom and flexibility. As a matter of fact, scaling can actually be very restrictive. There’ll be all kinds of things that used to work, but won’t anymore, meaning that you’ll have to rub these out of your usual strategy. It’s only when your operation gets a little larger, you’ll realize that there are a range of things that have always been slowing you down, without you realizing it. Whether you axe paperback to revive the company or do away with things like performance reviews altogether, you need to be aware that certain things will need to go, and holding onto them will only drag your company down. Getting rid of performance reviews, for example, will mean that you’ll free your employees from a lot of tedious work, and redirect those people-hours to more pressing issues. Don’t be afraid to make drastic changes when they’re a gamble, provided that you’re certain you can make them pay off. If your grocery is on the verge of bankruptcy, but hiring greeters will reduce theft and improve sales, then go ahead and do it. If team meetings are too long and ineffective, don’t be afraid of being seen as a horrible boss by banning the use of phones! Whatever’s on the horizon, you need to stop resisting change, and choose the sacrifices you’ll have to make very carefully.
Rapid growth, if you know how to handle it, can promise all kinds of great things for your business. However, if you approach it in the wrong way, it could be the thing that brings your promising idea to ruin. Going from managing a bootstrapped, fledgling start-up to a feverishly expanding business will require a lot of changes in your tactics, but through applying the strategies above and learning as you go, you’ll be able to assure a bright, successful future for your company!