Every startup and small business dreams of rocketing growth. But without a little planning, business owners may stay mired in focusing on daily tasks and to-dos and may not take time to come up for air to work on their business strategy for growth.
If you dream of expanding your business, get a plan for scaling it smartly and sustainably over time.
What Makes a Business Scalable?
Scaling a business means growing it slowly and steadily so that it can sustain that growth over time. A business is scalable if it can handle an increase in demand from customers without heavily increasing its expenses to accommodate that demand.
Scaling a tech company is easier than scaling other types of businesses. For example, a software as a service (SaaS) brand could easily handle a significant increase in customers simply by adding more servers to its system. On the flip side, a business that trades time for money, such as a consultancy, is one that may be more difficult to scale because, in this example, a consultant can only work with one client at a time, so is limited in how many customers she can serve.
When Should You Scale a Business?
A business that is established and has steady cash flow is one that can scale to greater heights.
On the other hand, a company that has unsteady revenues or too much debt is one that may not be secure enough to successfully launch a scaling strategy. And a new business may be focused on establishing roots and may not be ready to scale.
Entrepreneurs considering scaling should carefully consider whether their companies are truly ready for growth since it’s going to require time, money, and effort to get there.
7 Ways to Scale Your Business
Now let’s look at a few of the ways you can scale your business.
Expand Your Business Model
You’ve made a name for yourself by offering certain products or services. It’s time to consider offering new products to better deliver what your customers want.
Consider related services or products that your customers might want. For example, if you sell home decor in your retail shop, you could start offering live plants. If you are a business coach who works one-on-one with clients, you could start offering group coaching programs.
Invest in Partnerships
There’s no reason you have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to scaling. Consider potential partners you could work with to score more customers. With your home decor store, you could partner with an interior designer who offers in-person decorating classes in your shop. She can promote the event to her contact list, exposing your brand to a wider audience.
Scaling happens from all sides: as your customers grow in numbers, you’ll need new employees to help serve them. Look to hire team members with skillsets that complement your own so that you have experts in every area—from customer service to marketing.
One overlooked aspect of scaling a business is simply improving operations, workflows, and internal processes. If you leverage automation to handle, for example, your email marketing, you save time and can put that toward other areas of your business.
Business growth relies on establishing solid processes, especially if you hire more employees. Document every task in your business so that new hires can easily ramp up and get to work. You’ll make training easier and save time.
Constantly Market Your Biz
To attract more customers on a regular basis, you’ll need to leverage marketing tools like social media, content marketing, podcasts, advertising, and more. The better you establish your brand as a leader in your industry, the easier it will be to attract new customers.
As you market, keep an eye on results. Which marketing avenues are bringing in the most traffic to your website and sales? These are the ones you want to invest more in. For any channels that aren’t doing the job, cut ties and reinvest your marketing dollars in what’s working.
Expand Your Brand’s Reach Online
Your scalability depends on how many people can buy your products. Your website is likely where you sell your products, but you’re not limited to it. Look into becoming a seller on Amazon or Etsy (depending on your audience) so that you can reach more people with your products.
Get the Funds You Need to Grow
Scaling your business requires capital. You may not have cash on hand to cover the expenses you’ll have, such as investing in software, equipment, or payroll, and that’s where small business loans come into play. Yes, you’ll be taking on debt, but if all goes well, the growth in revenues will more than cover the loan and interest.
Don’t want to take out a loan? Look at business credit cards to help you make purchases for your business, or crowdfunding if you want to generate excitement around a new product and don’t want to have to pay back a loan. Startups can also consider venture capital and bring on experienced investors with the right contacts to help them scale.
Mistakes to Avoid in Scaling
Growing businesses often make mistakes when scaling. Be aware of these so you can avoid them.
Scaling Too Fast
Rapid growth may sound like a positive thing, but if your business isn’t prepared, you could end up hurting the brand. Consider the small business that made an appearance on Shark Tank or Oprah’s program and found their web servers couldn’t handle the tens of thousands of views that their websites had as a result. Or the companies who couldn’t keep up with orders because they didn’t have enough inventory on hand.
Your scaling strategy needs to account for what you will need to accommodate growth. You may need to hire more employees, order more inventory, or step up your technology.
Having Too Many Revenue Streams
While yes, potentially having new revenue streams can increase sales, they can also create havoc if you stray too far from your brand’s core offerings. You can’t be all things to all people, nor can you sell everything. It’s better to own your niche and expand gradually and strategically from there than to slap together too many revenue streams without truly understanding what your audience needs.
Not Updating Your Business Plan
You may not have seen your business plan since you first wrote it all those years ago, but scaling is the perfect opportunity to come back to it and update it to reflect the new direction your business is heading. Writing down your goals and how you will achieve them gets you in the right headspace to understand what scaling truly looks like.
Not Paying Attention to Changing Company Culture
Small business owners sometimes overlook how scaling impacts company culture. If you started your business with just three employees and you’ve scaled to 50, that changes how your employees experience their jobs and your company.
Your leadership skills may need to adapt as your company grows. You may need to hire managers to oversee employees while you focus on the big picture. Consider working with mentors who can guide you through this process.
Scaling to Success
As your business grows, so do the possibilities for the future. Rather than aiming for overnight success, plan for sustainable growth by carefully planning your scaling strategy, finding the right financing, and updating your plan as it changes.