If you are serious about growing your business, you need to consider how it will scale over time. Anyone that’s been part of a quickly growing company knows it can be a bumpy ride. It’s a fast ride, for sure. You’re adding employees, determining new salaries and budgets, setting long-term goals and juggling day-to-day growing pains. But there’s hope. Many small businesses have been down this road before you—so learning how to scale your business doesn’t have to be a mystery. Planning for scalability while your business is still relatively small can go a long way to ease growing pains.
The focus of your planning will, of course, be dictated by the specifics of your business. Obviously, a tech startup is going to face different challenges than a real estate firm. However, there are common struggles that many entrepreneurs face when scaling a business. Let’s take a look at three of them here.
Businesses of all kinds have organizational issues as they grow. So, it is essential to define employee roles and responsibilities clearly. When you are small, it is common for employees to pitch in wherever they are needed to get up and running. While this is essential for small companies to get off the ground, it typically doesn’t scale well. As you grow, it is important for employees to develop specialized expertise. As their expertise builds, the organization will become more efficient. Without an experienced human resources professional, make sure to research ways to set employee goals that are measurable and actionable.
Communication is a challenge related to organization. Communication among five co-workers is one thing. But, that changes rapidly as more people join the organization. So, it is essential to foster communication. Again, the nature of your business will dictate how you do so. For example, many businesses that are rely heavily on computers use collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to ease communication and cut down on email. In other businesses, in-person morning or weekly meetings are more appropriate. There’s no magic bullet solution but having a plan in place is essential.
Technology and equipment
Another important consideration is the technology and specialized equipment required for your business today and in the future as you grow. For example, many businesses today rely on cloud applications, compute, and storage because they are designed to scale. With cloud services, there is no need to make a large hardware investment at the outset payment is usage-based. This is can greatly benefit growing businesses.
Obviously, cloud is not right for every business, but it is a great example of what to look for when it comes to scalability. Look for vendors that offer a pay-as-you-go pricing model and products with modular expansion capabilities or clear upgrade paths. Choose vendors, like Carbonite, that are well established, have a proven track record, and a reputation for stellar customer support.
Of course, some businesses will not be able to avoid large technology and equipment investments to get started. If you are in that boat, you’ll need to estimate for potential growth before you make a purchase. Buy with scalability and mind, and ask peers for recommendations for products that grew with their business.
Finally, many SMBs struggle with leadership issues as they grow. In many cases, this is because people who start companies are experts in their chosen field – but might not be business savvy. Think Richard Hendricks from the show “Silicon Valley.” If you haven’t seen it, much of the plot revolves around his leadership struggles and difficulty bringing his Pied Piper video compression algorithm to market.
However, there are a number of proven methods growing businesses overcome leadership issues. Many business owners seek additional education to improve leadership skills. This might be formalized education, leadership training or coaching, or participation in peer forums. Others hire executives from outside the organization with strong business and leadership acumen. Some identify leaders from within, or groom less experienced employees for future leadership roles. Again, there’s no single “right” approach. Take a hard look at the leadership skills within your organization today and be prepared to make tough decisions about how to move forward.