By Maggie Potter
Scaling is the dream for every startup business. You’ve done something right, you’ve come up with an idea or service or product that people love, and you got it in front of the right audience — so much so that you’re ready to take the plunge and increase your operations.
It’s certainly exciting, but growth rarely occurs without pain. Inviting new people into your business is nerve-wracking, and it can occasionally go disastrously wrong. Implementing new processes interrupts your established workflow, but it has to be done to increase efficiency. Potentially most frightening, you might find yourself overextending, growing too fast, and not being able to keep up with demand — or worse, not having enough demand to cover your new overhead.
You can be smart about it, though. It takes time, patience, and a little willingness to compromise, but growing at a rate that doesn’t upend your business entirely is doable. To minimize those growing pains, we’ve looked at some of the most common pitfalls of scaling a business and talked through how to avoid them. Here are three things to avoid while scaling your small business:
Growth is often equated with one of two things: increased employees or increased profits. Both may be goals of yours as your business expands, but hiring immediately shouldn’t be seen as a necessity. More people does not inherently mean that productivity will be increased. More people does mean time spent managing, a hire overhead, and the potential for your mission to get lost in the shuffle.
Instead, look for ways to boost your productivity and increase your core company values before adding more people into the mix. Established processes and a firm, well-executed mission statement makes onboarding employees streamlined. It also helps you narrow down exactly what you’re looking for, both in terms of job duties and office culture. So, before you post on your local job board, take a solid look internally to make sure you’re ready for the challenges of a bigger team.
It can be hard to let go of your baby. After all, this business was your idea and came to fruition through your effort. Watching new people come in (even when they’re people you picked) can be stressful and make you want to watch everything they’re doing closely. Resist that urge. Being a good leader means trusting that your new employees are competent — after all, you wouldn’t have hired them if you didn’t believe that.
Instead of checking in every hour or constantly offering suggestions, try using productivity metrics. Before your employees begin their first day, sit down and decide what the minimum standard is for each position, and then determine average and excellence. Of course, you will need to shift these expectations as time passes; you won’t get it right the first time. The performance metrics you set will work as a conversation starter when things aren’t going how you want or if you’re concerned about an employee’s performance.
Forgetting Where You Started
Sure, you know all too well how it felt starting out in a basement, garage, home office, or other less-than-ideal office space. You remember the stress of generating new leads and desperately pushing for your idea to become what it is today. It’s hard to forget the times that inherently test what you’re made of — it’s where you learn.
Sometimes, though, it is easy to forget the people who helped you get out of there. If your business is growing and expanding, the people you truly need to thank are the customers that took a gamble on you from the beginning. Your first customers bought into your idea (literally) and became your word of mouth, allowing you to grow and expand.
Becoming hyper-focused on expansion and promotion of your product or service makes it easy to forget about customers. As you’re hiring, building, and implementing new policies, be sure to always put your patrons first. Strong customer service is a constant among successful and well-liked business.
It’s easier said than done, but try not to let the stress of scaling hamper your decision-making process. At the end of the day, you’re a successful startup manager who has a company that is going places and doing things, and you get to watch your ideas grow. If gratitude for the opportunities in front of you is part of your daily routine, you’ll find more peace and purpose as obstacles arise.
Get excited. Thank those around you. Keep your mission and your founding purpose in the front of your mind. Work within those parameters and you’ll be more focused than you can imagine as your business starts to scale.