To survive in today’s fast-paced, competing world, a business needs to grow. It has to improve constantly, adapt to even the smallest changes in the market. This applies especially to startups which very often have to struggle to keep their status high in rankings and keep their customers. But keeping the business alive doesn’t have to be difficult and exhausting, as many people think. If you follow a specific pattern, it is easy and satisfying.
Leading a small business can be more stressful than raising children or keeping a healthy relationship with your spouse. Here are some essential principles to get you started on a sane journey toward growth.
Make your business easily scalable.
You want to be ready and have a reasonable path to grow your business when your business starts to grow. Choose suppliers who will allow you to increase your production quickly if necessary. If you have a physical space, know when you will need to start looking for something bigger and where you might be able to find it. The need to scale up or down often comes suddenly, but if you work scalability into your decision-making process, it’s much easier.
Making your business easily scalable might end up costing you more upfront, but it could save you money in the long run. For example, if you are confident your business is going to grow quickly, opting for a larger warehouse than you currently need might be a good idea so you don’t end up running out of space quickly and having to move.
Look For team players.
In baseball, it’s not enough to maintain a high batting average: Fielders must also work together on defensive plays so the team doesn’t lose leads. The same principle applies to sales. Companies seeking to scale quickly should build teams of people who work effectively with the whole organization — not people who only look out for No. 1.
“Look for salespeople who can collaborate with other teams to solve problems quickly,” says Martin Stein, founder and managing director of national private equity firm Blackford Capital. “In rapidly growing companies, sales team members who can get answers from other departments tend to outperform their more siloed counterparts.”
The adage “Hire slow, fire fast” is doubly true for sales teams. Don’t wait for a salesperson to put up eight bad quarters before cutting ties. Thoroughly vet each candidate and only hire salespeople who have what it takes to drive growth.
It’s possible to look too far ahead.
Your goals are ambitious, and your vision of the future undoubtedly plays a big role in driving you forward, but periods of high growth demand your full attention. Don’t just focus on where you hope to be in five years, or you’ll miss opportunities and needs that are right in front of you. Securing investor money, closing sales, investing in technology and identifying new hires and strategic partners are steps you can’t skip if you want long-term success.
Webvan, a grocery delivery startup, learned this lesson the hard way. The organization grew quickly and expanded its business before first seeing success with its business model. The result? It wasn’t able to cover the day-to-day costs needed to stay afloat and ended up filing for bankruptcy, laying off 2,000 employees and closing its doors.
Don’t let this be your fate. To avoid looking too far into the future, break up your long-term vision into short-term goals. Then, focus on one short-term goal at a time. Examine the data in front of you, and adjust your short-term goals accordingly, ensuring you don’t unintentionally skip key steps to scaling.