My Business is Growing. Now What?
When a new business is started, the biggest fear of any business owner is always: is it going to work? Though the business may have a proven business model and is well capitalized, at the end of the day much of the initial success is based on timing and the owner’s ability to push beyond the initial hurdles.
Not many owners give much thought to what would happen if the business actually does work. When a business works, sometimes too well, a whole new set of challenges present themselves. Suddenly you need things like a people plan, you need to think ahead and anticipate the growth.
We have seen all sorts of scenarios since we opened our doors. We have seen business ideas blow up in smoke within 30 days of inception. Then we have seen businesses, we didn’t give a snowballs chance in hell, grow into amazing success stories. Ultimately much of the successful growth stories we have seen, can be attributed to three core factors:
1. You Have to Know Your Customer Base
In our Entrepreneur Magazine article we discuss that understanding your customer base is largely an exercise in humility, because you have to be honest with yourself that you can’t take care of everyone. Now, the concept of understanding your customer based in nothing new and many small business owners know they have a specific target market, but the businesses who really thrived with us always took the time to really define this customer, on paper. Their approach was a well-defined methodical process in which they hone in on what they can be great at. Part of this exercise is creating a brand strategy ahead of time. These businesses said to themselves “we need to gain a deeper understanding of who our customer is, and who is not our customer.” We actually wrote a separate article about developing a brand identity because we realized how important it was to develop a successful business.
2. Protect Customer Relationships
Service businesses especially need to work hard to protect customer relationships. Customers have always had a choice of who to work with, but with the onset of the internet the availability of a quick replacement has almost turned into an effortless exercise. Today, successful businesses first and foremost cater to their existing clientele to reduce attrition and drive referrals. For many of our clients, we actually recommend having an off-line strategy in place that coincides with their online presence. There is something to be said for a hand-written note or a personal letter that says “we made an investment in our relationship with you.”
To provide this type of service though, you really need to have your scaling process down. The key to building great customer relationships is to have a people plan, wherein you define what type of team member you need to provide the type of service you want to give. This doesn’t’ just include a definition of the ideal team member, but also an explanation of where to find those types of people, how to train them and when you need to have them hired to maintain the customer relationships you want. In essence, you need to have a People Plan.
3. Get Your System On
Of the three components this is by far the most tedious, because it keeps breaking on you as you make it better. You need to be very resilient and diligent in your systems creation. We have used a combination of resources to help us get our company systems under control. Process.st, for example, houses all of our checklists. Whenever something needs to be completed, we go to process.st to assure it is done right. Much like an airline pilot going through a pre-flight checklist, our systems are designed to work in a sequential order to assure very little falls through the cracks. Process.st does a great job helping you organize your tasks in a logical sequential order. For business owners, creating systems is probably one of the hardest challenges to tackle, because the process of creating a business system is so elusive. We are often pulled back into specific tasks within the business. While that is the case with any business, the businesses who have flourished were owned by people who also understood they had to pull back out and re-focus on systems development. It’s hard to do, but extremely rewarding in the long run.
Take these three factors to heart. Internalize them within your organization and see how much you can accomplish when your business is set up properly to scale.