I guess it is suffice to say that any start up would want to be faced with the problem of managing growth! It’s a challenge we’d all like to have, and ultimately (hopefully) every business is likely to face it at some point or another, if not multiple times.
But it’s one of the hardest things to manage. If your business is growing due to marketing, publicity and exposure, and your systems and processes are unable to meet those demands more damage can be done to your reputation than anticipated.
So how can we manage growth, meet the demands of our consumers, while still ensuring we are delivering a quality product or service, in a timely fashion, with excellent client interaction and relationship management.
Below are five key areas that will help us to stay ahead of the game and come out trumps when our businesses go through periods of high-growth.
Don’t leave all the important operational business knowledge in your own head, and don’t leave it in the heads of your staff members. The earlier you can start putting systems and processes in place, and documenting them, the faster you will able to grow, and the more you will be able to handle staff turnover without disruption to the business.
The added benefit of systemising your business is that you will tend to naturally consider and review the scalability of your business when you are going through the process of documenting your systems. Scalability is important, because this is what will enable you to handle and maximise the benefits of growth.
The simplest way to do this, is to start a document and for the next few weeks write up the simple step by step process every time you do something in the business. When you are doing it, think about how each process works if you need to do it 100 times instead of 1 time and if you’re not sure, now is the time to think about how you can make the process more scalable. If you can get in the habit of always making decisions with the mind set that you are 100 times bigger than you are, you’ll always stay ahead of the growth game.
This document will become the manual for the business and will fast track your training of new staff, but don’t forget to continually update the manual as you improve your systems over time.
Always look for new ways that technology can help you manage the different areas of your business better. Just like when you are establishing your systems and process, try to make decisions about technology assuming you are 100 times bigger than you are, this will aim to avoid the problem of having to continually change software solutions every time you grow.
There is no reason why you can’t have your entire business on a cloud based solution (or a variety of solutions) these days, and this will make it a lot easier to communicate with different parties in different locations. Solutions like dropbox, Gmail, Google Apps, Basecamp, Asana, Xero, Eventbrite, MailChimp, plus all of the social media applications are all free or low cost and highly scalable and generally can be used through iPhone apps, iPad apps and your computer, with different logins for different users, making it easy to operate from anywhere anytime.
Technology should be easy to use, make your life easier, and cut out steps in a manual process. It’s also a good idea to go with a larger provider who has a history of constant updates so you have peace of mind that the software solution you have chosen with keep updating over time too.
If we don’t change, we don’t grow and our businesses will soon be left behind, as other businesses fly by building on the past and evolving toward the future. As entrepreneurs we are generally absolutely in love with change, however it’s important to look for staff who will embrace it too, and to create a culture of innovation and forward thinking.
In my financial advisory practice, Wealth Enhancers, every staff member has innovation as a KPI, and at each weekly staff meeting they need to report on one thing they did in the business last week that made it 1% better. By doing this we have created a culture, and attract the right people, who love to evolve and grow with the business.
You need to be keeping a close eye on your competitors, but even more importantly, your target market and be looking out for what they are demanding. Ask yourself what problems does your target market have, that you can solve for them. This is not about thinking that your business I the best just the way it is, it’s about creating a mindset where you are always looking for changes you can make to stay ahead of the game and keep improving your product/service offering to your customers.
The beauty of being a startup or a smaller/newer business, is that we have the ability to be nimble and move quickly. Instead of layers of hierarchy to get through to make a decision, we can build a team of confident and capable people who are able to make decisions quickly when opportunity presents itself.
Teach your staff to make decisions the way you do by ensuring they understand the key goals for the business, the focus points and the values. That way they will be able to ask themselves “Does this opportunity help us reach our goals? Is it in line with our business focus and values?” and quickly make a decision as to whether or not they need to act.
By acting quickly and responding to your target market ahead of your competitors, you can retain your competitive advantage and ensure that you are at the forefront of what you are doing.
At the end of the day, when you’re operating in a fast growing environment and experiencing higher-than-expected levels of growth, things aren’t always going to go perfectly to plan. You will make mistakes, and your team will make mistakes, but this is your chance to be authentic and to show your customers that you are human, and although an error was made, you are sorry and to let them know what the business is doing about it to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
People appreciate the honesty and also understand that things sometimes go wrong. If you can show them that you genuinely care and are using the experience to improve the business, you will mostly find that people are very understanding of this.
The League of Extraordinary Women has experienced phenomenal and certainly unprecedented growth in the less than 12 months that we have been around. We have had to move quickly with our decisions, embrace new technology and build a team of Crusaders across the country to represent us and make decisions in line with our values, in order to facilitate the growth that has been demanded of us. Things don’t always go to plan, but we act quickly and are always open with our members about what we’re doing to bring them the events and content they love, with as few hiccups as possible!
Sarah Riegelhuth – co-founder Wealth Enhancers & the League of Extraordinary Women