You’ve defied the odds and started a small business. Now, that business is growing. While that is most certainly a blessing, it can also be scary. How do you scale your business without seeing your best-laid plans go off the rails? Here are a few tips we’ve gathered from small business owners across the country.
1. Decide Where You Want to Be
While successful business owners need to be grounded in the present to keep things running smoothly, they also should always be looking to the future. What kind of company would you like to be? What will it look like next year? In 5 years? 10 years? Where will your competitors be in this time period? Base your “now” decisions on how they will come to fruition in the future.
One practical way to do that is to build a sales growth forecast that includes the new customers, revenue and orders you envision. In this scenario, would your people, technology and physical space be able to handle it? Will you be able to absorb the rising expenses that would come with it? If not, do the research and start preparing a plan with cost estimates and action points. So when the time comes, you know you’ll be ready.
2. Understand Your Values and Stick to Them
Chances are, your business is growing because you’ve instilled it with strong core values. As you scale and take on new employees and branch out in new directions, it can be easy to lose sight of those values. As you make decisions that will expand your company, filter them through these values. If they don’t match, resist the temptation.
As you bring on new employees, you’ll find it harder to maintain the same control over everyday operations. At that time, it’s more important than ever to make sure those values are front and center. Make them a part of your training, put them up on the wall, remind everyone in meetings and, most importantly, live them yourself.
3. Consider More Education
The idea of getting a business degree while you’re running a small business sounds like lunacy. And maybe it is, but the skills you learn in these programs — from practical accounting and software skills to soft skills like communication and leadership — can be the difference between your company stagnating and your company blossoming.
And, degrees in business management and other areas of business are getting more and more flexible. Many are 100% online and allow you to do the work at your own pace, completing assignments when you have a chance and taking your time to complete the degree.
4. Bring in the Right People
This can be one of the toughest things about scaling. You probably started with a small team that’s become family and now you’ve got to bring strangers into the equation. How do you make sure their skill sets will complement the existing team and fit in with your vision. One way some small business owners hedge their bets is by hiring people with MBA degrees. This used to be written off as a “big business” move but MBA grads bring an expanded skill set and usually have leadership and management expertise, which can go a long way toward keeping the company cohesive.
5. Look to Mentors and Competitors
Identify businesses that started where you are and grew, particularly ones in your field. How did they do it? How much staff did they bring on? What types of positions did they create? How did they keep their values while adapting their business plan to stay viable? If you can’t speak with them directly (they are competitors, after all), consider finding a mentor. This could be an acquaintance who you look up to or a consultant you hire. Experience is the best teacher; they’ve been through it and you haven’t, so they have wisdom to share.
With hard work, great advice, strong values and no small amount of planning, you should be able to scale your business and watch it thrive.