When you start out in business, growth is naturally one of the first things on your agenda. It is therefore hugely satisfying and encouraging when you start to see the fruits of your efforts in sales and marketing in the signs that your company is getting bigger and more profitable. Of course, while growth is desirable and usually essential, it does bring with it its own set of challenges. This is especially true if your business grows at a more rapid rate than you accounted for in your original projections.
Being able to ride the successes in a business growth phase is crucial. If you start to show signs that you can’t cope with the new demand for what you do, then your business can recede as quickly as it grew. It is therefore very important to manage your growing company effectively, and ensure there is no lapse in the level of service and satisfaction you provide.
Here are some of the ways you can meet the challenges running a growing company can present:
Get enough storage and warehousing space
If your business sells physical products, or uses more materials the more business it does, then you’ll need to take care of finding somewhere to keep your products or supplies in order to meet with your growing demand. A lot of businesses start up with minimal space for this kind of thing, and even some ecommerce and retail businesses begin with the owner keeping stock or supplies in their home or garage. Naturally this sort of arrangement becomes untenable very quickly, and even if you have proper warehousing you can outgrow your space fast during a rapid growth phase.
A good solution if you need more room to keep more materials or products is to erect temporary buildings on your site that can be used for warehousing. Smart Space is one UK business who offer these kinds of warehousing solutions, enabling you to hire temporary structures as an interim solution if you are planning to get a bigger warehouse in future, or more permanent steel buildings that can allow you to put up your new onsite warehousing very quickly. The more permanent warehouses can be equipped to house things that need a particular storage environment, too.
If you do not have a place on your current site where you can realistically put a warehouse, then another option is to hire more warehouse space. This is usually less efficient, as if your storage is split between two sites you may have some logistical challenges to take care of, but it will at least give you the extra space you need fast.
Outsource the things you no longer have time to do
One of the biggest shifts you will find that you will need to make as your business grows, is who actually does the work that needs to be done to keep your company running effectively. Chances are you started out taking a lot of the roles on yourself, and wearing many hats. While this can be a good way to learn about different aspects of your business, maintain control in the early stages, and of course keep staff costs down, it can soon become a bad was to manage things. All of the time you are spending taking care of areas of the business outside of your main specialism and focus is time you are not spending doing what you do best, and as your business grows, you may find it is time you simply don’t have.
Take a look at the work you do and see where there is enough demand for you to hire someone to join your business and take a role on for you. This could be the case in all kinds of areas, such as in sales and marketing, production, logistics, customer support, finance, design, or whatever else is relevant to what your company does.
Where there isn’t enough of a need for an employee, or you aren’t sure there will be a consistent demand, another option can be to consider outsourcing some tasks to another company. This can be a great way to get on demand professional services that you can bring into your business with minimal management overheads. You can outsource all kinds of things from IT support and web design to marketing and accounting, so it is well worth looking into what is available to help support your growing company.
Get the right financial products
When you were financing your business to start up, you were probably facing completely different expenses to those you will now need to account for, as well as, naturally, not having the option of reinvesting profits. Now that your company is starting to grow, it is very important to review your financial strategies, and check that you are making the best use of the money coming into the business, as well as having the right financial products to protect yourself from things like cashflow issues.
Cashflow can be one of the most dangerous areas for some businesses that are experiencing growth if they have to wait for payments – you may need to pay for supplies, stock or labour to meet the demands of your new customers before you receive the money from your ‘good weeks’ that sparked your growth. Of course, this is far from unusual, and there are financial products designed to allow businesses to borrow against invoices they are waiting for, as well as naturally things like business credit cards. Investigate the options and decide on the best thing for you if you don’t get instant payment for what you sell – as long as you have a strategy for negative cashflow, it shouldn’t cause too many sleepless nights.
You should also consider things like investment at this point in time, and it may be worth talking to an advisor.
Review your processes and IT infrastructure
Whatever kind of business you have, it is likely that you use some IT tools, even if it is just your website and accounts tracking. Most businesses use far more, and some businesses of course are heavily IT based, such as ecommerce retailers and software developers. Whatever your level of IT integration, times of growth can be the best times to re-evaluate whether the tools you are using are still appropriate for your size. If you can improve efficiency significantly with a slightly more expensive software package, or believe you can up productivity and allow for things like remote working just by switching how you do things, then you want to be bringing in these changes now.
How you use IT, just like other business processes such as how you bill people, and your recruitment processes, all tend to grow organically as a company expands. This can mean that months or even years down the line, you are still using workarounds that are inefficient and waste people’s time just because that’s what you needed to do to make your existing approaches work as your company grew. The only way to avoid this and keep your processes streamlined, allowing you to be as productive and efficient as possible, is to regularly review how things are done whenever you undergo growth of any significance.
You may also need to make some more obvious changes, like switching to a different web hosting plan, perhaps using the cloud, if your website is now receiving more traffic than it can cope with with its current resources.
Analyse how you got here!
If you are undergoing growth, it isn’t all about putting out fires and scaling up your operations – you should also take some time to both celebrate and analyse what you did to produce these great results!
You probably already have a sense of some of the things that contributed – perhaps a marketing campaign, networking and making a useful new connection, or redesigning your branding were the main cause. However, it is always best to try and put numbers to what you did, and look at what could be repeatable. If you did multiple new things, for example you simultaneously launched a new website and started using Facebook ads, you should be able to break down where the different things you did contributed to your growth, and what your ROI was for all of your activities. It can be easier to do that with some forms of promotion than others, but if you aren’t able to get that kind of data from your current growth spurt, then the lesson you could learn is to design ways to capture information about your marketing as you move forward.
Growth is rarely (although occasionally) completely down to luck, so digging in to what you did and what impact it had can reveal some useful things. Perhaps you will find that there is a seasonal aspect to your business that wasn’t obvious, or something else that could look like pure chance, but is actually indicative of a trend you can leverage.
Managing a growing business is exciting, and you’ll be forced into a steep learning curve, however on the other side of it you’ll hopefully be in a great position to look towards planning for your next push for growth.