With 2015 marked as the year of the unicorn, many businesses are now transitioning into probably one of the most arduous times of their company’s history, the growth and scale of their business. When we talk about various challenges of ‘scaling a business,’ you have to, of course, understand the obstacles that come with that level of success. Many people within the industry use the term ‘scaling’ to mean a lot of different things. But when entrepreneurs talk about it, they are usually referring to the growth, development, and change of a business leaving the startup realm and entering into the small business sector. While this is, of course, and incredibly exciting time for any company to hit this level of success, it is also one the most difficult for the simple reason is that it requires a large amount of manpower and resources to keep the momentum going. These types of growing pains, especially when financial capital is involved, tend to be incredibly stressful. But as a business leader, it is your job to evaluate your business holistically so your company does not falter when it expands beyond its comfort zone.
But before we begin, every professional and expert will tell you that the simple solution to this type of growth is finding the balance within your company. While the idea of establishing that stability within the day-to-day operations of your workday sounds easy, the reality of the matter is that the overall execution takes a lot of time, work, and effort to keep every department and sector in check as your startup scales into a business. Think of this as a balancing act. Scaling too fast can inevitably lead to overarching responsibilities and pressures on your company’s capabilities. But scaling too slowly can risk the overall momentum of the work and growth and could potentially lose out on vital financial opportunities.
So how do you find the balance within your company? How can you better prepare yourself when your startup is ready to leave the startup realm and become a full-fledged business?
To do this, you have to evaluate your company holistically. Each time your businesses doubles, all of the responsibilities and expectations will also double with that success. From sales and management to new hires and product services, your company will need to handle the rapid growth in the most efficient and effective way possible. To handle each task, you will need to assess the five different aspects of your business:
- Growth of Customers
- Customer Demands
- Growth of Employees
By evaluating these five different categories, you will be able to predict various problems before they arise and better place your company when it does branch out.
Growth of Customers
At the early stages of your startup, your customer basis has been relatively manageable. But when your business scales, the demand for your product maybe out of your reach. When this happens, it is important you have the resources, time, and manpower to reach all of the needs and wants of your customers. Yes, this will be difficult. But to prepare for that moment early on will allow your company to handle the storm that is customer demand. In addition to this, do not this success be your only moment. Think of new and innovative ways you can improve your product for the next round of customers.
If you think about the video game industry such as FIFA or Madden, they are not just looking to execute an entertaining product. Instead, they are looking to out perform themselves each and every year. For them, the job begins once their new product is on the market. Their mentality is tailored to the simple idea of what can they do better. Similar to the video game industry, you want to think of the next project. This is where customer demands becomes a major factor in the scaling of your business. To push your business to the next level, it is imperative that you plan your services, your product, and your inventory, on the wants and needs of your customers. Customers purchase goods and services to satisfy their desires and needs. This may seem obvious at first, but you can utilize this information to help craft the overall direction of your business.
Growth of Employees
When establishing your startup, having a team of five-to-ten people is incredibly manageable. But once that proportion scales and you hit beyond the 25+ markers, that is when employee-growth becomes a significant challenge. One of the most important operational responsibilities of any business leader is designing and implementing the communication architecture for your company. Any absence or holes found within the operational logistics can only lead to stagnation and negative work culture. To go even further, any lack of attention to employee growth can fester to an extreme where employee turnover, dropped morale, and resentment can eventually be the demise of your company. Just think about it. To help prevent this from happening, make sure you are cognizant of the negative ramifications of employee growth. In addition, start by hiring the right people from the start. Usually, startups that scale try to find ‘quantity’ than ‘quality.’ That type of tactic only leads lack of effectiveness and risk within the workplace. To help increase positive culture within your employees, set various compensations and benefits. This will help bolster employee engagement. Lastly, establish a strong foundation for communication. The stronger the communication is, the better.
As a business leader, make sure you never overlook the importance of a strong and effective manager. When scaling a business, the growth of your employees and your customer basis are simply just scratching the surface. To make sure the overall operational logistics are run smoothly and effectively, you will need to make sure you have the right managers, directors, and supervisors in place. The simple reason why is that these individuals are looking to achieve your company’s overarching goals. With a multitude of factors running, strong management is able to convert disorganized resources into useful enterprise. This type of coordination, direction, and leadership is something you will need if you want to continue growing your company in the future.
Now as important as it is to look at the organizational and operational skills of a manager, you also have their performance. In the grand scheme of things, performance, while an important part of the puzzle, is not the whole picture. Great future-managers connect with teammates and influence coworkers. They engage teams and motivate them towards success. This, in turn, can help prevent some of the previous hurdles mentioned in this article such as employee turn over and negative company culture. Remember, you are moving away from the startup world and entering into the small business sector. To keep that momentum alive, you need various leaders and game changers that can help spark that type of faction.
No one ever said that scaling a business was going to be cheap. In order to handle a mass amount of customers, you are going to need to invest in various areas. Keep in mind, the bigger you get, the more expensive it is just to, ‘keep the lights on.’ Yes, you will be profiting a stronger amount of revenue, but watching each new expense eat away at your revenue can be a daunting task. Because of this, make sure you focus on things like pricing. In addition, make sure you are well aware of your expenses. Let me restate that again. Make sure you know what you are spending your money on. Just because you have hit a certain point does not mean you can be careless. Instead, this point requires you to be incredibly cautious of how much you are spending. To get ahead of these problems, make sure you track your company finances and review your numbers monthly and quarterly.