Congratulations are in order! You’ve made the bold decision to scale your small business this year, and we’re rooting for you.
So, what does scaling actually mean?
In a nutshell, it’s about ensuring your business has the capacity to grow, and the infrastructure to accommodate that growth.
For example, increasing your customers is great. But are you set up to be able to deliver to all those new customers? Or will your business begin to crack and crumble under the pressure?
That’s what scaling is all about: enabling and supporting growth in your business.
Because what’s working for you now probably won’t hold up when you begin to grow.
Instead of rushing full steam ahead, and putting yourself in a stressful situation, better to plan and prep now to give you the best chance of success.
Here’s our step by step when it comes to successfully scaling your small business this year (or any year).
- Figure out your end goal
If you don’t know where you’re going, then how can you possibly get there?
There aren’t many people who set out on aimless drive at the weekend, without an inkling of where they’re heading.
Business is no different.
Get clear on where you want to go, so you can boost your chances of actually getting there.
This means figuring out what your end goal is. What’s your ideal scenario?
Do you want to achieve a hundred thousand, half a million, or a billion dollars in sales?
Do you want to grow the company to a point where you can sell it on, and make an exit?
Do you want to earn just enough, and create a lifestyle where you get to spend half your time at home with your young family?
All of these different scenarios will require a different scaling approach. Once you’re clear on what you’re end goal is, you can create a plan to get there.
- Ask yourself: Are you really ready to scale?
A common mistake with small businesses is the desire to take the leap and scale before they’re actually ready to.
So, do you think now is the right time?
The only way to find out is to take a look at where your business stands today.
What do you need to do to increase sales?
Do you have automated systems in place, or a team to take care of daily tasks?
If your sales tripled overnight, would you sink, or would you soar?
Planning is key to figuring all the above out, and setting your business up for success.
Create a sales growth forecast, and include the number of new customers, orders, and revenue you aim to generate. Next, create an expense forecast, including all of the extra team members and infrastructure you’ll need to meet the new demands of those numbers.
The more time and effort you spend on these estimates, the stronger your plan and approach will be.
- Stick to the data
If you want to grow sustainably, you must know your data when it comes to your prospects, leads & customers.
For example, how do your customers become aware of you and your product or service?
What are their pain points, and how are you helping them?
How long on average does it take a customer to convert?
How many of those customers become repeat customers, and how many of them leave?
What’s causing them to go elsewhere, or stay loyal to you?
What are the biggest complaints or pieces of feedback you’ve received from past customers?
What do they love about you and your brand?
The more you know, the easier it becomes to drop what’s not working, and focus more time and effort into what is working.
This is how you scale.
- Be creative when it comes to money
If you want to scale your business, you’re going to need an injection of cash to help you grow and take the next step.
Don’t worry if you don’t have this kind of cash in your bank account. This is where you get your creative hat on, and explore the many options available to you that eliminate the need for an investor.
Kickstarter has been successfully utilised by numerous small businesses to raise the cash they needed to bring a product to market, or scale. This also comes with the bonus of having a ready made set of potential customers who are eager to buy what you’re selling.
- Create a new revenue stream
If you’re currently only offering single products, trying a monthly subscription service could help stabilise your monthly income, and provide you with more money to invest back into the business.
- Joint ventures
If you know someone else in your industry – whose target customer is the same as yours – you could team up with them to create a larger audience and potentially increase your sales.
- Bank loans
This isn’t for everyone, but bank loans are a great way to loan cash safely, and avoid the need to give away any equity in your business.
- Ensure you have a sales structure
When you commit to scaling your business, and everything’s full steam ahead, chances are you’ll be selling more products or services. That’s what every business hopes for.
But do you have the structure in place to cope with those new sales and customers?
Do you have a proper funnel to take people through from the beginning to end of the sales process?
Do you have enough people to follow up with leads, and turn them into sales.
Does your system manage orders efficiently, and is it able to cope with a larger volume of orders?
These are all things to think about regarding your sales structure.
- Automation is your friend
We’re lucky to be living in the age of technology, meaning that a large chunk of processes that used to require an actual person to do them, can now be put on automation using software.
CRM, accounting, HR, shipping, sales management, manufacturing, and inventory to name just a few.
This can help you run your business effectively at lower costs, and scale with a smaller team.
The important thing to remember is all your separate systems need to integrate with each other, otherwise you’ll only create communication and management problems in the future.
- Invest in people
Naturally, there are certain things that technology still cannot replace, especially when it comes to people to people services.
If you require someone to be directly dealing with customers and leads, manufacturing, delivering, or managing others – which most businesses will, especially as they scale – then you need to make sure you have enough people to deal with the increased demand you hope to create.
Figuring out how much one person can handle on their own will be important in deciding numbers.
Don’t forget the importance of recruiting and hiring systems, as well as payroll. Even if you’ve been doing everything on your own all this time, you won’t be able to continue doing that as you grow.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Just before Steve Jobs rejoined his company Apple, he spoke on camera about the importance of asking for help when you need it.
“I’ve actually always found something to be very true, which is that most people don’t get those experiences because they never ask. I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help…
Most people never pick up the phone and call, most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you’ve gotta be willing to fail, you gotta be ready to crash and burn, with people on the phone, with starting a company, with whatever. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”
It’s not weak to ask for help. Our toxic masculine culture teaches us that vulnerability should be hidden at all costs, because it makes you an easy target – but this is rubbish.
All successful business owners have achieved great levels of success because they knew where they wanted to go, and they asked people to help turn that dream into a reality.
If the thought of scaling your business fills you with anxiety or fear, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask someone to help you through the process.