Every entrepreneur starts a business with the ultimate goal of growing it into a venture that can outlive its owner. More customers, better products, more sales, more revenue, more cash flow, more stores… that’s the dream.
To be sure, there is nothing like rapid scaling. Business growth gurus recommend steady but consistent growth as opposed to fast growth. Whilst it’s certainly sensible, it’s not necessarily an approach I have taken in my own businesses to date.
A common mistake entrepreneurs make is that they attempt to grow so fast by expanding their market only to realize that they are unable to meet the needs of a surging customer base, which eventually leads to losing customers over issues such as customer service and product quality.
Here are proven ways to safely scale your business and see immediate results:
First of all, to grow your business, it is important that you work on it and not for it. This is a fundamental principle of successful entrepreneurship—you are not creating a job for yourself, you are building a long term business.
The problem with working in your business is that you get so caught up in the minute day to day dynamics that you forget to look for and leverage opportunities for growth.
So what do you do to focus on growth?
Identify the core business functions that require your input and that are essential for growth and focus only on those. Yes, sometimes you will need to get your hands dirty but it is important to have your eyes keenly on those activities that are geared toward real, tangible growth, for example marketing, networking or raising funds.
If you want to grow, you need important people in your corner. Finances are typically a big hurdle for entrepreneurs who are looking to scale. Do you know where your funding for growth will come from? The people you know.
Strategic networking allows you to build essential connections that enable you to secure the support you need for your growth. Bottom line, it is who you know. You obviously need to be very good at the value you are offering your customers, but let’s be very real: you need the right connections to take your business to the next level.
To grow at a sustainable pace, it’s important that you plan in advance and anticipate the demand for your product. The better you are able to meet this demand, the better you are placed to have a successful growth trajectory.
A fundamental principle of steady and sustainable growth is outward rather that upward growth. Outward growth allows you to thoroughly cater to the needs of a specific consumer base before reaching out to more customers. This ensures that at any given time, you are in control of both the demand and supply aspects of the business so that the demand does not overwhelm you when you grow.
Upward scaling largely involves increasing the number of customers without growing your current resources. While the idea of gaining more customers sounds pleasant, scaling on minimal resources always ends up in a supply hitch given the overwhelming demand that you were unprepared for.
The secret is to anticipate demand through outward growth instead of reacting to an outburst of demand.
One of the best ways to grow your business is through having solid customer base that offers repeat business. The truth is, if your business is bleeding customers i.e. you are not retaining customers, it will never grow.
Repeat business comes from consistency—customers want the same great quality and great value every time they come to you. if you are unable to deliver this type of consistency, your customer base thins out making scaling really difficult.
Consistency requires streamlined business structures from your team down to the delivery or point of sale. Put systems in place that will allow your team to produce more and to produce better quality each time.
In their book Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back, Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel assert the importance of narrowing down your offer so you can focus more resources on your specific offering. It is also much easier and practicable to scale a venture with few products that are focused on a specific market.
Refocusing your product offering may require you to reassess your shelf and determine the products that truly impact your business line and those that need to be let go.
Look at it this way: The lighter your offering, the easier it is to build it and take it to the next level.
While you may not want to take decades to scale your business, it is important to have both a long view and a short view of growth opportunities and their implications for the success of the business. It is not just about the big numbers; it is also about sustainability.