Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.
In the early days of business, success might seem like it’s all you could ever want. All businesses start off in a struggle to prove that they’re viable. Once they start getting money in, it’s a struggle to prove that they can survive and be profitable. If you’ve reached that level, now you should figure out how to grow your customer base and meet higher demands.
You’re going to have a lot of growth goals to get your business to the point where it can run smoothly with new demands. Many of those goals are going to require more than elbow grease, they’ll need plenty of capital. You aim to get to a stage where your profits feed back into the business, helping you expand, but that’s not enough. An updated business plan will help you manage your new resources and can help you secure funding from investors .
Build your infrastructure
Before you start bringing new staff, new hardware and new processes, you need to look at what you already have running. A small business with a small team has the luxury of being flexible. Playing it by ear can work for you from time to time. Once you’ve grown and started adding staff, this is likely no longer the case. Too much flexibility can be a risk. It can lead to poor productivity if it isn’t actively making you more liable. You need to start nailing down the infrastructure and building the rules of your business. How is decision making done? Do you have a code of conduct? What are the ways you manage work procedures and communication channels? The infrastructure needs to be strong to support a business that intends to grow.
Upgrade your team
Part of growing that business is growing the team that makes it all happen. When you’re choosing people, you need to think beyond just the role they’re supposed to fit. Choosing the right people means choosing those with the skills you’re missing as well as the skills to fit in. A big part of that is determining your organization culture. You need to think about what kinds of people are a good fit in terms of personality as well as what they can bring to the business. Make sure you have the standards for each role set and make them known. You can’t accept people with gaps in their skills that you need, otherwise it just means you have to hire more people.
Upgrade your staff
Then you need to look at how you treat the individual member of staff, too. As demand on the business grows, the people under your employ should be growing, too. They should be able to do more and cope with more responsibility. That’s not the only reason you should be creating personal development plans with the individual members of your team, either. It also plays a big role in showing that you value your team. Everyone who is career-minded seeks upward mobility in their job. Being able to provide that builds morale and helps you retain those key members of staff for longer.
Let go of the reins
Part of providing that upward mobility is also having the courage to step aside and accept your new role within the business. At the start of it, you might have had your hands on every different element of the business. You might have been marketing, sales, and the executive branch all at once. As a team grows, and the demands on that team grow, that’s no longer possible. Overextend yourself, and you’ll fail where it really matters. Securing new business and making sure the overall business is running smoothly. So you have to be willing to let your staff take on more of the responsibility that you were originally the sole carrier of. Find those who are ready to accept the reins and learn to delegate.
Look for helping hands
At the same time, you have to acknowledge that the answer to your problems isn’t always going to have an internal solution. Whilst you’re growing, you might not yet have to resources to deal with something in-house, but you do have the need for them. In those cases, you need to turn to outsourcing. Outsourcing should primarily be done under a few circumstances. For instance, if you need something done only temporarily. Most companies don’t need a web designer on full-time, so they should hire a web design firm temporarily. Otherwise, they can serve as a crucial stopgap. Your business may have need of a full-fledged delivery system in future. Until you’re able to get to that stage, however, fulfillment services can be the solution you need.
Start getting measured
If infrastructure is like the skeleton of a business, then productivity is the heart. If your business isn’t going as well as you would like, you need to make sure workflow is pumping at the rate that it should be. To be a truly efficient business, you need to have facts to work off. You need to start identifying specific problems. This means measuring the work done in the business. Key performance indicators can help you measure an individual’s performance. Meanwhile, systemizing their work processes help you measure the methods they use to achieve it. Growing businesses can’t handle workflow problems like smaller ones can. Inefficiencies add up. The more potential for them, the more potential damage they can do.
Don’t forget the customer
Looking internally is a huge part of hitting those growth goals. But if there’s one lesson that a lot of scaling businesses forget, it’s the need to keep the customer in mind. They forget the customer to focus on those goals. Meaning that they have a business ready to take on a large customer base, only to find out that it’s no longer there. Make sure that your business is still in the process of innovating its offers to the market. Keep customer service and satisfaction as one of those metrics that you’re constantly working on. As the saying goes, don’t miss the forest for the trees.
Keep marketing to keep growing
You can’t afford to forget about the customers you don’t yet have, either. Obviously, if you’ve gotten this far to be asking these heady questions, your marketing’s a success. But as you grow, you need to think of new ways to reach out. You need to think of new audiences and new mediums to use. Further growth and profit are what’s going to serve as the fuel to meet all the plans above. So keep reaching out to customers you haven’t hit before. Don’t just use social media and Google adverts. Look into things like video marketing and audio advertisements as well. If you haven’t take your business to trade shows before, make your debut. Start expanding your presence in the mind of the market.
On every level, from the individual to the infrastructural, you need to get serious. You have to prepare your resources, your team and your methods for more demand. At the same time, make sure that you’re never abandoning your customers for your growth goals.