20 Truths You Must Know to Scale Your Business

Ready to scale your business? Here are 20 things you'll want to take into consideration.

20 Truths You Must Know to Scale Your Business

Are you ready to scale your business?

Many business owners and entrepreneurs go into business in order to make a living for themselves, ideally doing what they love and make money doing it. The sad reality, however, is that most businesses are not successful at all because many businesses are driven by a business owner who IS the business.

Therefore, as the owner goes, so does the business.

There are those other businesses, that do “make it,” which are bigger than the business owner and can continue beyond the skills and capabilities of the owner. Successful businesses will typically have a structure designed to support the business’ growth (ability to scale) and provides the owner or founder with more options when it comes to exiting the business. This ability doesn’t come by accident. It is very deliberate and strategic.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve started more than a few businesses and have learned an awful lot from my own experiences and those of other people. I’ve known a lot of bare knuckles fighting, grassroots building entrepreneurs who started with nothing and threw it all in (no plan b!) which now have this certain calmness about them. I have also seen those just starting out that looked like a deer caught in the headlights when things hit the fan.

While I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen it all, here is a list of 20 things that I’ve learned over the years. Totally off the cuff, of course. ?

1) Engineer Your Processes:

Ensuring that your company has processes and procedures in place not only makes it easier to train new people and have a standard for getting things done, but it also makes it easier to separate a task or a job into multiple tasks or jobs when it becomes too much for an individual to handle.

2) Automate Your Processes:

Automation serves a number of functions: it ensures that certain, repeating processes are done the same way every time. It allows the company to do more with few resources and it reduces the likelihood of error.

3) Understand Your Numbers:

Your accounting system should do more than tell you the history of where you have spent your money; it should be instrumental in your planning processes. Don’t be the owner that doesn’t take a paycheck or doesn’t incorporate your compensation into your product or service offering. Know exactly what is going into every sale and what kind of return you will get from each expense.

4) Pay People Strategically:

Hire people at a wage that will make them feel valued, will not hurt the company, but will not put you in a difficult position if you have to replace them. If you find someone that can work for $10 per hour where the market is paying $15-$20 per hour, and that person leaves, you may have a difficult time replacing that person at that wage or you may find that your budget doesn’t work.

5) Hire Well:

Do a great job with your job descriptions. Don’t generalize or get one off the internet, but rather understand what your needs are and find someone to fill those needs and be flexible in understanding that one person may not be the “be all to end all.” Don’t hire people who you would not be okay with having to fire, and don’t hold on to people who you know that you should fire. If you’ve been doing this for any length of time, you’ll know pretty quickly who won’t work out.

6) Treat People Well:

Sure – cliché, right? While you can’t be a predictor of how everyone will respond, understand that as your business scales, you will have less and less direct control or ability to supervise the people who are working for you. If you treat people poorly, you can pretty much count on them not to work hard, to cut corners, and to not take ownership in the business. You need people who will take ownership when you are scaling.

7) Don’t Think Small:

If you think small, you will stay small because you will act as though you are small. Which typically means that you are going to spend most of your day putting out fires and chasing after every little shiny thing that crosses your path. You will be over-worked, stressed out and still treading water in the same position year after year after year.

8) Know Your Role in the Company:

Know the things in the company that only you can do. If you are the only one that can lead the company, then focus on that. If you are the only one that can sell, then do that. If you are the one that can do X, do that. Then get great people around you to fill in the gaps. Understand that just because you are good at something (for example, selling), that doesn’t mean that you must be the only one that is doing it, that you are the best at it or that it must be your role. Also, understand that your role may have to change in the company and be okay with it. When you have a company, it is no longer all about you.

9) Have a Business Development Strategy:

Even if you are the greatest salesperson that ever lived, to scale you’ve got to be able to reach a larger audience of customers and clients; likely more than you can handle on your own. Which means that you’ve got to market bigger, do lead generation bigger, lead nurturing bigger, sales meetings bigger and have more closes. Depending on your business model, your business will likely be greatly hampered if this is limited to a single individual.

10) Think in Terms of Selling the Business:

The challenge with selling a business is that often the owner IS the business and causes a knowledge vacuum when they leave (in addition to the relationships that the owner would have with customers). So, this means that a great portion of the value of the business leaves with the owner, leaving the new owner with, perhaps, a great idea. When you think in terms of selling the business, you are no longer selling yourself to get new business, but rather the business and the brand itself. It does not mean that you do not know your customers, but rather, that your customers will have relationships with other people in the company. So, if you leave, the interruption will be less noticeable.

11) Get Advice and Have Accountability:

Whether you set up an advisory board or join a mastermind group, have people around you which will encourage you, hold you accountable and give you feedback on your ideas and plans. What we perceive isn’t always reality. Having someone looking from the outside in who will ask, “did you consider this?” is an invaluable resource.

12) Don’t be the Lion that Takes Advice from Sheep:

While it sounds crass, people who haven’t walked a mile in your shoes shouldn’t be the ones to tell you what kind to wear. Make sure you clearly understand what each advisor brings to the table and that they can bring it at the level that is going to contribute to your path. It doesn’t mean that each one should know everything about everything, but rather, that they are experts in their field and can bring some level of expertise that you may not have.

13) Have a Strategic Plan:

A strategic plan is your map to get you from point a to point b, with an understanding of the environment and your own capabilities. It is not just a bunch of ideas that you jot down based on the hope of the best outcome. Steps and stages aren’t just based on a gut feel. You should be able to measure your progress toward your goal or goals. You should understand what resources are necessary and how to get them to achieve your goals.

14) Don’t just trust the process:

Anyone who has had a business will tell you that it is hard. People who have done it a very long time will tell you that through all of it, you probably won’t die. There are processes and stages that you will absolutely have to see all the way through to see the fruits of your work. But there are some brick walls, some rocks that you will encounter that no matter how hard you try, you will find your work to be an exercise in futility. This doesn’t mean that you must give up, but rather, you must find a different way.

15) Keep Moving:

“Fairly forward, roughly right,” is something that has stuck with me from my days in the military. It means that I know my objective, and while I am focused on my objective and pursuing it, the outcome of any initiative may not be exactly what I have planned. But nine times out of ten, if I am moving fairly forward and roughly in the right direction, I will eventually achieve my objective. I have never, ever worked with a business owner who achieved his or her objective by quitting.

16) Don’t Lose Sight of Who You Are:

As a small company, it is relatively easy to build a corporate culture that everyone loves if you put the effort into it. As you become busier, as more people join the company, it is easy to lose track of why you started the business in the first place and easy to forget everything that you wanted to do to build the coolest companies (I can’t tell you how many ping pong/pool tables in the office I have heard that never came to fruition). Your company culture is something that you need to be intentional about and work hard at. That is why it is so important to have your company values written down and why it is important to have people around you who will hold you accountable to maintaining them.

17) Never Compromise:

If you started out delivering a great product or service, or had awesome customer service, or hired only fantastic Chick-fil-a level employees, then never, ever compromise on it. You never want to be the company that “used to…” Yes, you might say that you are after a different customer or that customers will forgive you, but I assure you that you are leaving money and brand equity on the table.

18) Learn from Your Competitors Where You Want to Be!

While your marketers will ask who your current competitors are, it is the competitors who are in the space where you want to be that will be your biggest challenge. How do you ensure that your product or service is a great replacement for their customers? How do you anticipate their customers’ needs? How do you outmaneuver them? How is your company clearly and significantly different from them? Be clear that going head-to-head with a market leader is very expensive and takes a great deal of time, effort, and money.

19) Understand the Money:

The money conversation is often the most difficult obstacle for the business owner. Being undercapitalized is one of the primary reasons that companies go out of business. The business growth stage is one of the most, if not the most, volatile time in a business existence. You need extra capital for nearly every area of the business, yet you are never certain of where that capital is going to come from. You’d like to think it is going to come from customers. However, you might have invested in the right marketing strategy at the wrong time, or it might be extremely effective, but you can’t keep up with demand. The proverbial “good problem to have.”

20) Protect Your Company:

You must protect your company above all else. Not just for your well-being, but also for the well-being of everyone impacted by it: your employees, their families, your customers, the communities you service, your lenders, your vendors and, of course, your family. Realize that every decision that you make or fail to make is going to have an impact on your company. It can be painful reviewing all of the “lessons learned” that you couldn’t likely learn any other way than to experience them. What is worse is repeating them and knowing that you knew better.

Scaling a company is not for the faint of heart. It doesn’t happen accidentally or even by luck, although making it through a rapid growth phase will sometimes seem like it took a bit of luck. Sometimes the hard part isn’t actually getting there, but rather, staying there. Markets will expand and contract; there will be competitors that enter and exit the market and the economy; technology and public opinion will always impact the way that we do business. As business owners and entrepreneurs, we must always, always, always be aware of what is going on and be ready to adapt, adjust and pivot to protect our companies for ourselves and for all those that we serve.

Have a strategic plan that helps you to understand your environment is foundational to scaling a business effectively.

Schedule a Coffee & a Consult and learn how we can help you build and scale an extraordinary company. There is no charge for the initial consultation, and if you’d like, we can give you an idea of what it would be like to work with us.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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