As your business begins to draw more attention, it’s tempting to significantly ramp up production or take on numerous new clients. But doing so without looking at the long-term impact will only bring you grief. Taking on projects you don’t have the staff or resources to manage, or overestimating just how much the market can support the work you do, may lead you to overextend.
So, it’s a balancing act: You need to grow to take advantage of business opportunities without growing so fast that you damage, or destroy, a company you’ve put your heart into.
With this in mind, 15 members from YEC share their top tips for scaling a business without going too fast.
1. Look at Processes First
Your business is a set of repetitive processes — for sales, operations, marketing, and finance — refined over time and communicated clearly to your team. If you want to grow, your processes have to grow, too. Think about putting in the right processes now for a company three to 10 times your size. Sure, you can manually run payroll now, but you can’t for 100 employees.
2. Look at the Long-Term Results
Almost all growth looks appealing in the short run, but it’s long-term viability that actually matters. The difference between flash-in-the-pan businesses and those with viable long-term success is that they look at the big picture. Before looking at a growth opportunity, see if it makes sense one or even five years from now. Comparing the costs to long-term gains will ensure the right choice.
3. Launch Your Product Quietly
Any successful business will start to scale, and if you want to manage your growth without scaling quickly, you will need to throttle your marketing. By launching quietly by placing your product or service online, you will be able to manage the influx of customers and grow on your terms. If you have launched a strong marketing campaign, you won’t have the control offered by a soft launch.
4. Hire People Who Can Identify Inefficiencies
Bring people onto your team who can identify inefficiencies in your business while driving the business forward with out-of-the-box ideas. To scale, you need a team of people who aren’t afraid of failure, so look for that in the hiring process.
5. Say ‘No’ to Retail Before You’re Ready
One of the best decisions we made early on was delaying our retail launch. As an IoT product, it was really difficult to turn down offers from Best Buy, Amazon and others. We needed time to get everything prepared for a full retail launch, and waiting six months was a good decision. If you launch before you’re ready, you can wear yourself too thin. By ramping up, you’ll scale in a sustainable way.
6. Make Sure Every New Order is Supported
If you’re accepting more orders than you can satisfy, you’re growing too fast and something will break. Make sure that you have the resources to meet every order that comes in, and then bring on new resources to help you meet increasing demands. When you build a business model on supply and demand, you’ll have a firmer understanding of what you can achieve and where you need to build up.
7. Manage Your Cash Flow
One of the pitfalls of growing too fast is managing your cash flow. In fact, if you extend net terms (i.e. 30 days) to your customers and your growth picks up, it’s possible you can run out of money and be unable to meet your minimum cash needs, such as payroll and marketing. That’s why it is critical to evaluate financing options — such as an adequate line of credit — to manage and maximize growth.
8. Staff Aggressively
One fast way to break a business is by stretching key team members too thin. When you’re experiencing a growth spurt, hire more contractors or staff to ensure everyone has adequate resources to fulfill their jobs, rather than being forced to be reactive to everything that’s going on when they’re understaffed.
9. Set Goals and Timelines
You need to be able to set reasonable goals within reasonable timelines when it comes to your company’s growth rate. For example, at six months we want to have “x” amount of employees and “x” amount of clients. At one year we want this many… and so on. This will put your company’s growth in perspective for you and your entire team, and set expectations for all.
10. Know Your Numbers
Do extensive market research to make sure any horizontal growth is justified by quantifiable projected growth. The problem many businesses encounter is “over-investing.” When increased success encourages expansion, there’s a tendency to spend more on scaling than the market can handle.
– Nicholas Nadjarian, Industrial Motor Power Corp.
11. Focus on Retention, Not Superficial Growth
A lot of businesses that grow too fast (and end up folding) decide to scale because they want to absolve or justify their valuation. What ends up happening is that the business will bleed cash in order to create buzz and service those new customers. When you scale your business, you will definitely attract new customers, but you should focus on retention instead of superficial growth.
12. Outsource Projects
One thing that people often forget is that there are plenty of people out there who don’t want to work for someone, but would love a steady stream of work. Using this to everyone’s advantage has upsides for both parties. If your business has lots of project work and you’d like to be able to take more or less at times, then partnerships with like-minded people are the way to go.
13. Don’t Scale to Suit Investors
Venture capital investors and founders play on the same field, but they aren’t playing the same game. VCs will push lots of companies to grow very quickly with the knowledge that most will fail — they spread their bets. Founders, who are all in on one company, should be more cautious about rapid growth. Focus on establishing reliable revenue streams so you can support organic growth.
14. Grow With Your Projects
Resist the urge to staff up like crazy and get an office that doesn’t fit your needs. Grow with demand. Bring on the team you need in order to sign the clients you want to be signing. Continue to scale this up as demand and resources allow. A fancy office or large staff doesn’t mean anything without the client roster to back them up.
15. Be Ready to Pause (Briefly)
Scaling up a business is like trying to change the wheels on a race car while it’s zipping around the track. You will have to pull over for some — hopefully short — amount of time while you rip out or adjust old, unscalable processes and set yourself up for the next stage of growth in order to prevent disaster down the road. Don’t be afraid of this transition: It’s not a plateau, it’s a jumping-off point.
How to Scale Your Business with Content Marketing
We hope you enjoyed our latest YEC expert roundup series, which is focused on providing you with actionable tips on how to grow and scale your blog, brand, and business to new levels of growth. To learn more about how to reach new audiences and create a content marketing plan for your business, be sure to check out our how to start a blog guide and make money blogging guide. Each of these guides will prove useful in breaking down the various components for effectively creating original content for your audience, while also discovering how to use call-to-actions, viral marketing, and outreach to rank higher in the search results.