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We Grew So Quickly We Had To Shut Down

This entrepreneur's business grew so quickly that she had to shut down to get a handle on things. What she wishes she'd done differently.

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Companies that grow too fast can be difficult and stressful to manage

After opening my own firm, one of the first things I had to do was to close it. Yes, this was temporary, but it still wasn’t quite what I had envisioned.

But by 5 p.m. on the day I officially opened for business, I felt a whole new kind of stress: How could I handle this unexpected avalanche of clients responsibly? I can only term this “the reverse curse.”

There are a few key systems I wish I had put in place to deal with fast, early growth.

  • A clear formula for adding staff. To expand appropriately without growing your company too fast for your finances, decide on specific revenue points at which you’ll hire someone new-;well before you’re overwhelmed with the chaos of growth and expansion. For example, for every additional $15,000 in revenue, you might add a new part-time employee, or for every additional $30,000, you might add someone full-time.
  • A clear order of different types of hires. My first hire was administrative support, followed by a part-time receptionist, then a marketer. For an entrepreneur who has been planning the business and wearing multiple hats (maybe every hat), it is not easy to switch from the DIY mindset and relinquish control. Before you get going, think about which tasks will be the first ones to be delegated once the company is growing. You want your time to be spent in as streamlined and efficient a manner as possible.
  • A coach or peer group. I didn’t talk much about my business before I launched it. My idea was to create an asset management firm for individuals, offering completely transparent investment advice, and housing clients’ money at third-party custodians so they remained in control of their assets. When I did speak about it, the more mild reaction was commonly, “Are you insane?”

    I turned to a business coach and an entrepreneurial peer group for help. Either can provide a very helpful life vest in the form of perspective and guidance. They have been there and done that, so they can help you stay on track without overreaching your resources or sacrificing the level of service you seek to provide.

Their support makes it easier to see that all growth opportunities are not created equal. You don’t want expand your business in a new direction that doesn’t really deliver a commensurate return on your investment.

Remember, expansion is not the same as growth. Preparing in the early stages for strategic growth periods--before they actually hit--will help you juggle your day-to-day responsibilities without losing sight of your long term vision.

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Last updated: Dec 18, 2012

ELLE KAPLAN | Columnist | CEO, Lexion Capital Management

A finance expert and self-made entrepreneur, Elle Kaplan is the CEO and founding partner of Lexion Capital Management, the only 100 percent woman-owned asset management firm in the U.S.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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