Small business owners generally love the word “growth” since when used in relation to a business, it usually means success. A growing business is a thriving business, or so most people believe.
Unfortunately, many small business owners discover the hard way that business growth may result in problems if your business isn’t equipped to handle that growth and can even kill your small business all together!
A growing business needs to be supported by a robust business strategy and sufficient manpower to benefit from growth. Without that in place, you could end up making your company unsustainable and unprofitable.
All growing businesses eventually reach their limit. You might run out of employees to handle the new volume of orders or customers. You might not have enough product to meet demand.
Most small businesses struggle to manage operational issues during a growth phase, and it can be hard to decide whether it’s time to hire additional employees or if this is just a short-term spike in sales or customer volume. The following are tips for managing growth in a small business.
Ways of Managing Small Business Growth
1) Maintain Owner/Management Role
If you find yourself performing the tasks of your employees – creating the products or fulfilling the services your company offers, it’s time to take a step back. As the business owner, you should maintain a management role in the organization.
If you don’t have enough manpower without you on the front lines, it’s time to either replace existing employees who are not generating the necessary return on investment (what you pay them), or hire additional employees so that you may focus on the administration, management, and strategy.
2) Add Organizational Systems and Procedures
When a business is started, many small business owners check over the details of their employee’s work, correct any mistakes or problems before they reach the customer, and generally just keep a close eye on how everything is running. If you are growing rapidly, you won’t have the time to continue this with as much detail.
A business needs systems and procedures for managing staff and providing the products or services of the company. There should be product or service quality control standards to ensure the business turns out the same level quality whether you are in a slow period or a growth period.
Look at your daily business operations and determine what tasks can follow specific systems and procedures, and then get everyone on board. When your business relies on systems and procedures, it will manage growth much better than one that simple scrambles to keep up as business expands.
3) Keeping Growth in Check
For most business owners, growth is welcomed but it’s important to keep your growth in check. When you start generating more sales than you had previously, it can be tempting to spend more money than you’re able to – perhaps you decide to upgrade computer or technology, or hire more staff to handle the new business growth.
Both are excellent uses of business income, but if you’re not careful you may spend more than you can afford and then your financial stability could be damaged. The growth phase that should have resulted in higher profits could easily turn around and cause a cash flow problem if you aren’t careful to keep the growth of the business in check.
Read Also: 6 Fundamentals of Business Management
7 Great Tips to Manage Business Growth
1) Understand your Business
It is vital to understand what your values are as a business. What sets you apart from the competition? What’s your differentiator?
Spend time thinking about what makes your business tick and what you’re good at it. This will help you to decide how you want your business to grow. Creating a mission statement can be useful, as it will nail down your objectives.
2) Set Realistic Goals
Be realistic about what you can achieve. If you don’t have the resources or support in place to fulfill a huge contract or order, then don’t take it on. It is better to be honest with a potential new client, rather than accept the work and do a bad job.
Set SMARTER goals:
Specific: Have a clear goal in mind. Don’t just say, “I want to increase sales and cut costs”; be clear about how much you want to increase your sales by and the areas where you want to cut costs.
Measurable: Once you have a goal, it’s important to quantify it. How many sales do you want? How much money do you want to save by cost cutting? Be clear in your objectives.
Attainable: Is the goal achievable? Do you have the tools in place to make it happen and have you given yourself enough time to do it?
Realistic: Is your goal realistic and relevant? Is there a market for it? Does it match your company’s vision and values?
Time-framed: Set yourself a specific timeframe. Work these timings into your business plan and stick to them.
Evaluate: At the end of each quarter, review your SMARTER goals and consider how you’re progressing against a financial target. You can do this using up-to-date financial information paired with business insights from your team.
Re-do: Once you’ve evaluated your progress, adjust your goal for the coming quarter by doubling down on what works and abandoning what doesn’t.
3) Know your growth market
Part of any growth strategy is to understand your market. Do your research and get a picture of how your customers behave and what they want. Remember, business conditions change constantly so do this on an ongoing basis.
It is useful to do a SWOT analysis, where you assess your company’s Strengths and Weaknesses, and then identify Opportunities open to you and any threats you face. This will help you to establish a niche in your market.
4) Recruit the right people
As your business expands, you will need to ensure you have the right people around you to support you. When it comes to hiring, it is not just about plugging the skills gap; it is about recruiting people who will fit into your company’s culture.
Then, once you have a great team in place, work at retaining them, ensuring your employees feel valued and that their roles and responsibilities stay fresh and stimulating.
5) Move from micro- to macro-management
To grow a business effectively, you need to trust the people around you to make it happen. Growth can stagnate if, as a business owner or manager, you insist on overseeing every little detail. Allowing yourself to step back from the day-to-day running also gives you the chance to see the bigger picture to focus on business growth and development opportunities.
On the flip side, avoid being an absent leader. Employees like to feel valued for their efforts, so take the time to engage with people and offer feedback – this will make them feel empowered and boost their productivity.
6) Safeguard intellectual property
If you’ve worked hard to establish a brand or product, the last thing you want is a competitor swooping in and copying you taking credit and profit for work you have done or devaluing your brand.
Take time to get to grips with your intellectual property rights and ensure you trademark your product name and logo, and patent any new inventions or products. If unsure, it’s worth speaking to a legal professional.
7) Monitor your cash flow
A fast-growing business needs capital behind it and that means keeping tight reins on your cash flow. Good supplier management and stock control are vital – you want to free up money for growth, not have it tied up in outstanding debts or existing stock.
Weekly forecasting is also essential – keep a close handle on what is coming in and what is going out of your business. New stakeholders will be much more likely to invest in your company if you have strong cash flow credentials.