When you’re starting a small business, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on your business launch. But it’s equally important to consider what’s next so that you not only understand success, but you can also plan for it.
It might sound counterintuitive, but sudden success can often be the downfall of many start-ups. It’s not necessarily success that’s the problem; instead, it’s being able to rapidly shift and scale your business to keep pace with a sudden change.
Let’s say, for example, you sell a product that’s currently available on your website. You’re getting a small but steady number of orders per week, and you’re seeing incremental monthly growth.
But then, yur product catches the eye of a major retailer. And they place an order for an as-yet unprecedented quantity. What do you do?
That’s why it’s so important to plan for business growth, including identifying the business processes that you can implement to help you quickly and easily scale your company as needed.
To help jumpstart that planning process, let’s look at three key considerations that will help prepare you to grow your business.
Before you make a plan to grow your business, you need to know what you’re working toward. Try answering these questions:
- Where do you want your business to be in five years? In 10?
- What’s your ultimate goal?
- How do you define success?
It helps to look at success in multiple stages, too. Identify your dream goal (and yes: think BIG!). Then, note a couple of success benchmarks that could happen on the way to fulfilling that ultimate goal.
Remember: starting and running a business is a journey. And all of the planning and strategic thinking you do — especially your vision and your business plan— act as the roadmap to help get you to your final destination.
HOW WILL YOU GET THERE?
Speaking of that roadmap, now it’s time to build one that’s focused on helping you fulfill your ultimate goal.
Remember when we mentioned earlier in the post that sudden success can sometimes have a damaging effect on a small business? That’s typically because the business owner didn’t properly plan for that success and was unable to keep pace with a sudden change.
Here’s the deal: you can’t plan for everything. But it’s important that you understand every facet of your business — and what you’d need to add or change to scale up — so that as success comes, you’re prepared to meet it head-on.
Let’s go back to the goals you identified in the previous section. Now, it’s time to make a plan for how you’ll achieve those goals. Consider the following questions:
- Will you need employees? What roles? How many? What’s a reasonable salary?
- How can you scale up production? What sort of facility do you need? Will a sudden increase in demand require a shift to overseas production or another similar and significant change?
- What other operational and logistical changes do you need to make to support your goals? What are the costs?
It’s important to plan for growth because it’s likely not feasible to start out of the gate with a full staff and top-of-the-line production. Instead, it’s better to start small and then scale as your business growth supports it.
But with forethought and planning, you’re in a much stronger position to understand what you need to better leverage the momentum of success. And if that success arrives more suddenly than anticipated, you’ll be prepared rather than caught off guard.
UNDERSTAND WHEN TO ADD EMPLOYEES
One of the most common signs of business growth is the need to add employees. Yet there is no denying that hiring and retaining staff can be challenging, especially if you have never managed people before.
As part of your success planning, devote some time to specifically focus on your employee needs, including what roles you need to fill. Then, prioritize those roles. What support do you need when you launch your business? And what factors will determine when you need to grow your team?
By understanding your employee needs, you can then make a plan to fulfill them. When you start out, you’ll likely wear a number of hats and juggle a variety of roles. (This is an opportune time to revisit your personal strengths so that you can identify what skills you can provide until your revenue supports adding employees).
This planning will also give you the information you need to better understand your employment options. Let’s say, for example, that a business accountant is a mission-critical need. Yet when you start out, you probably won’t have enough work to support a full-time, on-staff accountant. That’s when outsourcing to a third-party vendor is an ideal option, and one that’s commonly used for business services like accounting, legal consulting and marketing.
Once you identify a list of skills or roles you need fulfilled, you can also do a little research to find the best fit for your particular business model. You’ll likely want to outsource some work to a third-party, but will you work with an individual contractor or a firm or agency? It may help to consult with some fellow entrepreneurs to get their firsthand experience before you make a decision.
Then, the trick is to keep a close eye on your numbers, including your expenses and revenue. As your business grows, you’ll likely hit a point when it’s cheaper to hire someone full-time rather than continuing to outsource to a third-party. And that’s when you can focus on building your full-time team.
The best piece of advice? Start small. It’s highly likely you don’t need to come out of the gate with a fully staffed team. Sure, you might work long hours for awhile, or juggle some tasks you don’t love. But if you focus on filling your most critical needs first, then growing your team as your revenue permits, you’ll be positioned to achieve long-term, sustainable success.
There’s no denying you’ll need various types of support to grow and launch your business and that’s where we come in. If you find yourself stuck at any point in the planning process — or simply want some outside expertise — register for Kauffman FastTrac, a free online course designed to help entrepreneurs like you launch their businesses.
The course is self-paced, so you can work around your schedule. And with an immersive format, you’ll take away tips, tools and resources that you can immediately apply to your own business to help accelerate your company’s growth.
Remember when we compared starting a business to a journey? Think of Kauffman FastTrac as a visitor’s center, ready to dispense the information and resources you need to make the adventure as smooth as possible. Next stop: success!