Most small business owners will agree that they don’t intend to let their business stay small forever. There’s an expectancy that some aspect of the business — whether it’s the number of employees or customers — will scale up over time.
As the business grows, however, it’s important to help carefully execute its growth. Things can get out of hand very quickly if you do not have a strategy, leading to these common challenges that businesses scaling fast face. Here’s what you need to know about addressing each one.
1. Hiring too many employees all at once
The challenge: Cash flow has been great, so you decide to expand your team significantly. Maybe you’re doing it so your existing team members have a little less on their plates. Or, you might be inclined to keep up with the other startup Joneses. If you decide to hire, but bring on too many employees, it can present a major challenge across the board. You’ll need leadership in place to help train the new hires, plus the assurance that these employees have job security. What will you do if sales begin to decline or revenue isn’t on the up and up?
The solution: It may be tempting to quickly expand, but you might want to stay lean for now. Measure your financial projections and compare and contrast existing quarters to past quarters in business. This will help you determine how many new employees you can hire. Meanwhile, consider giving your existing team members new hats to wear. Some of your employees may have the skills necessary to excel in a different department. Chat with them to see if they’re interested in taking on a new, challenging workload. If they say yes, then you’ve got talent to help out!
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t make big hiring moves yet. Being nimble is an excellent key to startup success, and it’s never a bad thing to remain true to the mission and values that the business was built upon.
2. Continuing to scale, even if your products or services can’t handle it
The challenge: You push to scale, even though your products or services aren’t ready. Doing this can set off a negative domino effect that impacts everyone from your partners to customers. The dominoes will continue to fall, eventually affecting your overall business.
The solution: Do your due diligence. If you are determined to scale up, it’s important that your products and services are perfected for the customer base and that the market has a demand for your offerings. You may want to revisit your business plan for a bit of extra, objective insight into your long-term goals.
How do you know your products or services are ready to scale? Simply put, what you have to offer should be great. Your business plan may include more information as to what makes your offerings unique and distinctive as well as how they address the needs of your target audience and stand out from the competition.
Reach out to customers for their feedback before you push too much out too soon. Can you make improvements to your existing offerings? Do your current products and services need any adjustments? Should you decide to go through in scaling your offerings, asking for and utilizing, this kind of feedback now will allow you to put out more of what your customers need.
3. Losing sight of the customer experience
The challenge: You have been so consumed with the idea of scaling from the business side that you have forgotten — or paid less attention to — the customers. As such, their overall experience with your company has been declining. You haven’t been able to deliver on the “wow!” factor quite like you used to, and customers are growing gradually unhappy about it.
The solution: Hit pause. This isn’t what entrepreneurs scaling up will want to hear, but it is critical to the health of your business. Do not continue missing beats with your customers or ignoring ongoing issues. Regroup with your team and brainstorm on what you can do to resolve these problems before they expand any further. Instead of racing toward a scaling finish line, move a bit more slowly and deliberately. Have a plan and a thorough understanding of the strategies you’ll use to grow and advance in the right direction.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.