6 Quick Tips to Scaling Growth
When you start your business—you and your laptop vs the world—scalability is the last thing on your mind (or at least your to-do list). There is so much that has to happen first: secure investments, hire talent, develop a minimum viable product. It’s a rat race to close the next client, keep the lights on one more month, extend the runway until the end of the year. Why worry about scaling systems when you have important needs right now?
As humans, we’re animals of habit. Spending the time to develop a scalable process while you’re still small and nimble will allow for quick growth when the time arrives. It is way easier to operate from the beginning with the right work processes than try to re-learn how to do your job sometime down the line and then continuously iterate in order to keep up with the scale.
Here's a cheat sheet with six things I've seen organizations do to set themselves up for success:
Resist the temptation to take every opportunity that comes your way. As a new business ourselves, we’ve learned this is key. Warren Buffett always says that not every opportunity is a great opportunity, so you should pick and choose wisely. If an opportunity is not right, it will hinder your growth, not scale it.
It might sound insane: you’re just packing t-shirts out of your dining room, why should you invest hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in systems? Simple: to avoid growing pains. Signing up for a solid CRM or e-commerce platform can help free up your time to spend it in other parts of the business that can help drive growth.
Take a hard look at your current processes and identify those monotonous tasks that suck away at your workday. Whether it's marketing funnel-related activities, sales-oriented tasks, or even internal day-to-day operations, there’s probably a list of daily actions that could be automated to allow for your undivided focus on other endeavors that can’t be, yet are equally important.
In my experience, Trello and Asana are great project management platforms that will allow you to review your workload at a glance, delegate tasks to other team members and review the status of every stage of a project.
HubSpot is a fantastic CRM platform that will allow you to automate marketing funnel tasks, reach out to clients and leads automatically and track a customers progress from lead to sale.
And MailChimp and Constant Contact, when used in conjunction with your e-commerce platform, will allow you to automate many of the customer-facing tasks of an online store, such as order confirmations, abandoned cart notifications, related item upsells, pre-scheduled sales drips, etc.
The Quick Fix is Not Always the Best Fix
Scrappiness is a valued quality in new companies. However, it’s easy to get trapped into the mindset that 20 different small tools can work together like a complicated puzzle because they are individually easy to use and require a minimal learning curve or investment. It’s a trap! Stop to think about how you would document and communicate this process. Is it efficient?
I have worked for companies that in order to save the monthly expense of a CRM, have weaved together a network of processes through multiple word processors and spreadsheets that required entire manuals of documentation to use. The man-hours invested in training employees to use the system, combined with the time spent resolving customer service or supply chain issues that stemmed from the misuse of the cobbled-together system would have easily paid for the top-level tier service of any CRM in the market and eliminated the need for these altogether.
Resist the temptation to save on process tools; instead, spend several weeks at a time testing different platforms until you find the best ones for your company.
Sometimes All You Need is a Quick Fix
Do you need to spend $100K in a brand before your first year in business? Probably not. Your product is going to iterate several times and so many things can change during the first couple of years in business. Your branding budget at that stage (for concept and deployment) should look more like $10,000 and should include a basic logo with variations for each use, branding guidelines, color palettes, brand fonts (and licenses) as well as a basic library of stock images or budget for a small photo shoot of branded images to accompany your product/service and use on your website.
Plan. And Then Plan Some More.
Develop strategic high-level priorities for the year, then break them down into quarterly and monthly priorities. This planning sets the tone for all team efforts moving forward. It’s important to be able to ask yourself if this specific project is serving at least one of your strategic goals. For example, if your goal for the year is to acquire 100 corporate client accounts, you should spend time, money and company resources into acquiring said accounts. Other awareness plays should be free, or low cost, when targeting accounts that don’t fit the corporate client profile.
And be honest with yourself: Lots of companies in their infancy get distracted with bright shiny object syndrome and lose sight of the important strategic items that will move the business forward.
Build the Right Team
You want to be involved in every single conversation. You want to manually approve every ad that gets published. You also want to sit in every meeting to make sure morale stays high. You can’t be everywhere. You’ll burn yourself out in 6 months. Work on your business instead of in your business. Be an expert at leveraging resources. Whether you decide to hire an in-house staff, or delegate to a small team of freelancers, or hire an agency to help; focus on the things that make you awesome at what you do and let other professionals handle the rest.