Business growth is a major priority for most entrepreneurs. It’s a natural instinct to want to be bigger and better than your competition as well as wanting to show your prodigious skill in making a profit. If you start a business with no ambition to grow, you probably aren’t that serious about your business in the first place.
But business growth is never easy and even when you seem to be making rapid progress, growing pains can set you back a long way. When your business is growing too fast, it is easy to feel panicked and start making bad decisions. However, there are a few strategies you can use to make everything a lot easier.
Flatten the Pyramid
One of the major reasons that business owners become so stressed is that they are the top of the pyramid – everything comes back to them. There are two big problems here: first, if one person is ultimately responsible for all decisions and needs to pass everything, at some point, their judgement is going to fail because the pressure is too great; second, if one person is the conduit for all decisions, there’s going to be a back-up of stuff that needs to be done.
By flattening the pyramid and giving more of your staff autonomy and the ability to make decisions, you will find that things get moving much faster. This is why companies often have a variety of people in top jobs – each person can manage a different strand of the business. The more your business behaves like a network and less like a pyramid, the easier it will be for your staff to communicate and make progress.
For global companies, communication and progress is essential. When you are all operating in different time zones and trying to coordinate what you are doing, you need to have people in place to smooth the way. As it says on the blog, Communication In A Multi-Location, Multi-Team, Multi-Project Business, you need to make your direction felt and be sure that all employees, no matter where they are, understand the mission.
Outsource and Hire
The first sign that your business is growing too fast is often missed by business owners. While you are struggling under the weight of your increasing responsibilities, you probably haven’t noticed that your staff are in a similar position. But struggling staff are the business equivalent of the canary in the mine. If your staff can’t keep up, there is a problem.
One way to combat overworked staff is to hire more people. However, you need to think carefully before you do this. Hiring more staff is great but it also requires time to train them and bring them up to speed with your project. Some companies fall into the trap of hiring in anticipation of work and then find themselves making people redundant when they don’t win the contract. Other companies wait until they have the work but aren’t quick enough when it comes to bringing people in to the office. The right time to hire new staff is when you know that your business is bringing in consistently more work.
If you’re not sure where you stand, outsourcing some of your work is a good idea. Whether you choose to outsource to another company or bring on a freelancer as a stopgap, a temporary contract can ease the pressure on your business and give you the time you need to bring on permanent staff. If you’re looking for a compromise, this is the best you’ll get.
Manage Your Overheads
As you take on more staff and more projects, your business overheads will start to rise but may not be in line with the invoices coming in. This can cause serious problems, especially if you are reaching the end of your credit limit and your lenders are starting to get nervous. Reducing your overheads as much as possible should always be a top priority but working out the best places to save right now can be tough.
Hiring an accountant to manage your business finances might sound like an expensive idea but will probably benefit your business in the long term. Having someone dedicated to making ends meet and demanding payments will take a weight off you and your accountant will also be able to forecast your financial future too. The best reason to hire an accountant is to find further ways to save money by making the most of tax breaks and other advantages.
The more control you have over your finances, the easier it will be to budget for growth and work within your means. The greatest risk you can take is over speculation and not winning the returns you were banking on. The more you stretch your own finances, the greater the risk is and the harder it will be to claw back your profit. This is especially problematic if you are stretching credit and haven’t considered the impact of accumulated interest.
So, if you have to, you need to learn how to say no.
Learn to Say No
Every growing business is looking for more and more opportunities. But, wait – what are you doing? You can’t take on more work when you are already struggling with the projects you have!
Learning to say no is really, really hard. Instinct says that more work is better and will lead to more opportunities, more growth and more profit. But let’s take a more objective view. If you struggle to complete a project on time, within budget and to the client’s specification, that’s going to look really bad and won’t bring you the further opportunities you are hoping for. It’s far better to admit that your business is already working at capacity (a great achievement in its own right) and help your potential client find a suitable alternative.
Saying no is not the same as declining a relationship, it’s simply about taking an honest approach to business. There are lots of polite ways to decline and there are plenty of opportunities that are no such thing anyway. For example, it might be exciting that an influencer wants to work with your business but unless they are providing a tangible result, they are probably just freeloading.
Recognizing a genuine business proposal and recognizing where you can’t actually fulfil the requirements are both essential while you are growing. It might seem counter-intuitive but selectivity is what will really make you grow, not volume. Keep your eye out for quality contracts and give yourself the space you need to decline anything that won’t help your cause.
Growing your business will take time but that’s a good thing! Steady progress will give you time to adjust your business without stretching your resources, stressing your staff out and putting too much pressure on yourself. When you are in control of the growth, you have the power to decide what your company’s destiny is and how you are going to achieve your goals. Runaway growth might seem super successful to begin with, but it always comes with the risk of crashing out.
The more you can do to keep your growth in check the better. So, make sure that you have the skills and expertise before you expand into a new area and give your staff time to adjust to new responsibilities too. Above all, remember that you should never be an island within your business. Every business is built on the success of the team, not one person at the top of the pyramid.