Congratulations! After years of late nights and hard work, you’ve taken a simple idea and built it into a successful, established business. You took risks and tried new things in the face of failure to get your business off the ground. You were scrappy, persistent and passionate: everything a new business needs in a leader.
Fast forward, and you’ve been in business for two, five, maybe even ten years or more. You have a proven business model that’s working – but it isn’t growing as fast as you’d like. Why? It could be that the techniques and methods that made you successful in the first place aren’t going to be the strategies and tactics that generate results going forward.
Here are four questions to ask yourself as you strategize how to grow past any plateaus and scale your business:
Take some time to reflect on where you want your business to go. Take a look at your original business plan and see what needs to be updated. It can be easy to get busy in the day-to-day, but knowing where you want to go over the next five to ten years is just as important. For example, is now the right time to plan for a second location, or even expand into a new city? Are there new product lines you want to launch but haven’t had time to think about? Having a vision will also help you focus on the right things, instead of trying to do too many.
Then, take a deeper dive. There may be small aspects of your business that generate two or three times the results that other parts do — these are the areas to strategically experiment and take calculated risks on to help achieve your goals.
For example, do your customers rave about a specific product line? Do they turn into clients for life after experiencing a particular service? Do you tend to get customers through social media compared with other channels? At this stage, it can be easy to get complacent once you’re established, which is why it’s vital you continue to go above and beyond to listen to customers and innovate based on their feedback.
The scope and responsibilities of your business have expanded. Your lean, mean tight-knit team is as solid as ever, but it’s impossible for the founding team to do everything at this scale.
This is the time to think about the key specialists you can bring in to refine and automate critical responsibilities and functional areas. Perhaps this is a dedicated customer care manager who innovates solely on how to deliver the best shopping experience. Or, perhaps your business needs an SEO expert to improve your website’s rankings with better results than if you had tried to figure it out yourself.
Finding and hiring the right people takes time. It can be tempting to hire quickly to fill a growing gap. Don’t be tempted. Hiring mistakes are even more painful in the long run. If you invest a little extra time upfront, the right person will pay off disproportionately for your business in the future.
In the early days, communication was probably a cinch – especially when everyone could still fit in the boardroom or sat within talking distance of each other. As the team and business expands, however, information sharing becomes harder.
Think about the processes you can implement to help your team stay informed and feel connected. Whether it’s a weekly email update or a quarterly one-on-one, find a way that works best with your team. These are also opportunities to connect everyone to your company’s mission and values. The values that guided your earliest employees may not be as obvious to newer team members, so make sure that these communications surface stories that highlight the values underlying your business.
Similarly, think about how you are communicating with your customers, vendors, and other groups external to your business. When your customers interact with your brand, is it a consistent experience? Or is the in-person experience completely different from what’s on your website? Take some time to review your external communication channels and touchpoints, and see what could be improved.
The ability to get things done, no matter what it takes with no previous roadmap, is critical in the early stages.
At this phase, eschewing process is no longer the solution. This doesn’t mean turning into a corporate bureaucracy. But it does mean creating strong systems that free up everyone’s time, energy, and creativity to generate better outcomes and service for each other and for your customers.
For example, you might decide to use a standard set of questions as part of the interview process for potential candidates. A process like this helps avoid bias, ensures that you and your team are using the same criteria, gives the candidate a consistent experience with your brand, and saves everyone time brainstorming new questions for each interview.
What are the systems you can implement to make running your business easier?
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