There’s one thing that small businesses do really well: unlike global corporations, a small business offers the “personal touch”. For many clients, this is important. A lot of us would much rather deal with someone who knows our name, the names of our kids’ and greets us like an old friend when we place an order. It’s a far nicer experience.
This is all great, but over time, as a business grows, it sometimes loses the personal touch that resonated with clients. Now, when clients call, they never speak to the same person twice and if there is a problem, it’s hard to find anyone who cares.
Business growth is desirable, of course. Without a plan in place to scale up and expand, there is a real danger that the business will stagnate. This is not in anyone’s interests. The key to success is scaling up without losing the qualities that made your business successful in the first place.
Based on our own experiences, we have some handy tips below, to ensure you do it the right way.
Have a clear business plan
A business plan is a roadmap for the journey ahead. You wouldn’t drive from Brighton to the Orkneys without a roadmap (or SatNav), right? Well, it’s no different in business. A business plan details where you are now and where you want to be in 3-5 years, along with a detailed plan for how to get there.
Sit down and think about your goals. Does scaling up mean adding new products to your inventory? Or perhaps you are considering opening a new branch office. Evaluate the market and assess where things are heading. If you can get ahead of the curve, you should be in a better position three or five years from now.
Automate processes and workflows
Many small business owners micromanage every last detail. After bootstrapping the business from the ground up, they struggle to hand over control to others.
This is a huge mistake, one that will hamper your chances of success in the long-term.
If you want to scale up your business, you need to learn to delegate to other people and automate workflows and processes as much as possible.
Laura learned this the hard way. It turns out that working 15-hour days, seven days a week isn’t such a great idea!
Automation reduces the amount of work you need to do, which is important when you scale up a business. Make use of tech tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck to automate your social posts. Outsource jobs you don’t need to do yourself, such as content writing.
We can write all of your content. We can even post it on your blog if you like! This will free up time so you can concentrate on more important things, such as networking with clients and sourcing finance for your next project.
Hire new people
No man or woman is an island. You need to hire additional bodies if you want to scale up the business, important people, like a CFO or Operating Manager. This is another thing Laura learned the hard way!
Chances are, you have the same core team working for you now as the day you started the business. These people have your back and vice versa, but as the business grows, they will need additional help.
Hire people who can bring something extra to your business. People with the experience and skills you and your existing team lack. New talent can offer a new perspective, fresh ideas, and reinvigorate your passion for the business.
Think of talent acquisition as a long-term process. Finding the right people to help you grow the business takes time. Start early and be prepared to wait for the right person to come along.
Look after your team
Moving on from the last point, it’s wise to look after your core team. Don’t become the micromanager everyone despises. Give people the freedom to do things their own way. The more autonomy your team has, the easier it will be for you to concentrate on the bigger picture.
At the same time, reward the people who work hard to ensure your business is in a place where it can thrive and grow. Without them, you’re the captain of a sinking ship.
A pay raise is the most obvious way to keep employees happy, but money isn’t always the primary motivator. Other key strategies for keeping valuable employees on-side include:
- Offer them benefits such as educational opportunities, health insurance, a company car, etc.
- Provide opportunities for employees to grow and thrive
- Make sure you strike the right life-work balance
Most importantly, however, make sure the people who work hard for you feel valued at all times. A simple “thank you” or a birthday card can go a long way.
Look for a more experienced mentor
Growing a small business isn’t easy, so it makes sense to work with someone who’s been in your shoes. Look for a mentor who has already accomplished your goals, someone who started a company like yours and grew it into a much bigger enterprise.
You can learn from them and, in turn, they can guide you when the going gets tough.
Some of the ideas you have will bomb. It’s pretty much inevitable. Accept that you’ll hit road bumps along the way. The important thing is to be flexible and willing to let go of a bad idea. If it’s not working, perform an autopsy, figure out why the idea failed, resolve not to make the same mistake again, and move on.
Onwards and upwards!
Companies that stagnate are at risk of being overtaken by their competitors. It’s always a bad idea to grow too quickly, but some growth is needed if you want to keep a foothold in the marketplace. The important thing is to grow at a sustainable rate. Concentrate on maintaining your reputation for quality. That way you won’t shed your loyal customers (and employees) on the way up.
If you are ready to take your business to the next level, get in touch today!