Many businesses start small but later grow into large, complex companies, such as a local bookstore turning into one of the largest retail bookstore chains in the country. For many small business owners, however, such a rise would be a surprise and a massive challenge. Few people are prepared to grow a local company into a thriving medium-sized or large company. It takes a mix of organization, a good team and a scalable infrastructure to keep a business growing without losing focus.
Here are three things you need to do to grow your small business right:
1. Have a plan and a mission statement
It’s hard to do your job if you don’t have a clear idea of your responsibilities; it’s even harder to run a company if you don’t know what your company focuses on. When you start scaling your business, you must have an idea of where you are, where you want to be and how you’ll navigate between the two.
It’s like sailing: You wouldn’t try to cross the ocean without plotting your course and keeping track of where you are. Don’t let your company go adrift or run aground. Determine what you want your company to do and create a mission statement that encapsulates your company goals. Plan what you want your company to accomplish in the next year, five years and 10 years. Even if you stray slightly, you’ll still have a reference point.
2. Get the right people on your team
It’s easier to manage your company roster when you have one location and no more than a few dozen employees. It’s much more difficult to find great people when you grow too large to be a “small business” anymore. Your employees and managers have to know when and how to delegate common tasks so they can focus on their primary objectives.
It’s not just a matter of finding people who can do the work, either. If a new hire has the skills but doesn’t fit with your company’s culture, they’ll disengage and their work will become sloppy. Evaluate applicants based on how they interact with others. Implement peer lunches with candidates so you can get feedback from your employees before you extend an offer. Start relationships with industry influencers and thought leaders. Learn to rely on each other for staff recommendations. If you have an industry heavy hitter in your rolodex, it can help you find great talent much faster.
3. Prepare your infrastructure
If you rely on technology for your business, this is one of the most important and potentially expensive issues you’ll have to face. Don’t expect your needs to scale linearly. As you grow, you may need to start collecting new types of information, making your database needs scale aggressively. Unless you’re prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring a full-time IT staff to evaluate your needs, purchase new equipment, install it and manage it, you need to find a better solution.
Any cloud service you can find that does something you need will keep you from dealing with the headache of server management or paying for a full IT department later on. Find the right HR management software, customer relationship management (CRM) suite and email service and you’ll have more time to focus on your core business.
These aren’t the only things you’ll need to scale your business effectively, but if you focus your early attention on them, it’ll be much easier to achieve everything else. Once you know where you are and how to get where you want to be, you can find the right people to help you get there. By setting up your infrastructure to scale early on, you can avoid IT-induced growing pains and make the technology underlying your business nearly invisible to your employees and clients.
Your ultimate goal is to develop an amazing, efficient company filled with talented people who love their job. Make whatever decisions you must to get there.