There comes a time with every business that you have reached a ceiling and it is time to look at growing in some shape or form.
This can be anything from diversifying your products and services to increasing the size of your existing operation.
Either way, when it comes to scaling up your business there is a level of preparation that is needed to minimise the risk of growth.
Without understanding the risks and addressing them either before or during your scaling you are very likely to over extend and there is a good chance that your business will go under.
Over at Inc.com they have put together a good list of 7 things to look at before you starting to scale up
1. Get the basics down.
Before you even worry about scaling your startup, make sure your fundamentals are fool proof. According to the StartupGenom's survey of 3200+ startups, 74% of failures can be explained by premature scaling. So make sure you're covered for the following:
Make sure your core product line reaches "market fit". You can make gradual improvements through product iterations based on user feedback and data.
Find out your largest core users.
Find out the marketing channels with the biggest ROI and scaling potential by testing with smaller budgets first.
Make sure you have the resources to scale. Seek additional round of funding if necessary. You can't worry about profitability while scaling, and the last thing you want is to run out of money.
Note: Even though these practices are software-centric, they also apply to physical products. So if you started an e-commerce site, make sure you take the time to get the basics right before scaling.
2. Automate Everything.
If you're spending a long time "setting up" your business, then good for you.
Setting up cloud storage and organization...
Setting up training processes for new hires...
Setting up marketing automation...
Setting up payroll for rapid processing...
Setting up billpay for automatic withdrawals...
Even though it takes a long time on the front end, this activity will pay for itself in the long term. You'll be able to access data faster, hire faster, market better, pay easier, and streamline operations for a truly scalable model.
3. Boost marketing.
How can a business scale if no one knows about it?
Focus on marketing, and scalability will follow. But not every form of marketing is scalable. According to Forbes "direct marketing is...not scalable" and "word-of-mouth does not scale."
Content marketing, on the other hand, is one of the most scalable growth methods. Content marketing has evergreen value and viral potential, making it the growth-hack method of choice for most startups.
4. Outsource non-essentials.
For big corporations, the name of the game is "in-house." They've got in-house graphic designers, developers, conversion optimizers, SEOs, CPAs, lawyers, and even janitors.
Startups can't afford that luxury, and if you want to be strong enough to grow, you'll need to outsource all non-essential roles.
Your graphic design firm doesn't need a law department. Your SEO consulting firm doesn't require a full-time PowerPoint designer. You just need to focus on what you're good at.
This lean approach is what allows a startup to break into the big time. When you're nailing it with your core competencies, you'll start to scale up.
5. Keep an eye on social media.
Every new startup is in the public eye. Whatever happens on social media will be examined by the world.
It's important in your startup days to watch your social media carefully. Fledgling startups can't afford to take a major PR hit with a social media flap. Big companies might be able to weather the storm, but your startup isn't ready for it.
Scalability is about surviving, as much as it is about growing. If you hit a PR fiasco, you're limiting your chance of survival and scalability.
6. Excuse yourself.
Your business is not about you.
In order to be truly scalable, your business should be able to function just fine without you. The way you put that into place is by deliberately shifting responsibility off your shoulders, or into the oversight of someone else. In addition, you should take deliberate absences so you can force the business and personnel to be independent.
It may be a little bit humbling to come back from a four-week vacation and discover that the business is thriving without your being there. But this can actually be encouraging, too.
Your business is making money while you sleep, relax, or build something else.
You've proven to yourself and to your employees that the business isn't tied to your presence or even your existence. You feel liberated. They feel empowered. The business is ready to grow.
7. Hire the right people (and only the right people).
A business is scalable, only when it has the right people on board.
First, though, you have to hire only the people that are necessary to the operation. (See "outsource" below.)
Here are some of the key characteristics of a team member who will help you scale:
They can do what a program can't. If you have a human doing something that a machine can do, then you're wasting human effort. A startup needs to automate everything that it can in order to maximize the output of human team members.
They are full of good ideas. You can't put a dollar price on the value of a good idea. A single lightbulb moment on the part of one employee can more than pay for that employee.
They have more than one skill. In the startup environment, one person might have to do three jobs. Hire people with a multifaceted skill set, or skills that can be transferred from one task to another.
These are just some of the factors you need to consider when growing your business and I am a big believer in having a mentor or a coach to help you through your growth period.
You can find more lists like this over at Inc.com