The key to scaling your first business is this: balance.
You're looking to balance speed with attention to detail, rapid-fire decision making with thorough due diligence. And because business never goes as planned, scaling becomes the ultimate test of anticipation, adjustment, and persistence over time.
For every first-time entrepreneur, the question of how to scale is one of the most fun to entertain and difficult to solve for. I vividly remember what the process was like with my first company, Wilmar Industries.
Long before it was a $650 million company with 58 locations and 2,300 employees, it was nothing more than a local hardware store--and before that, a flea market table. Scaling that business was no easy feat, but I learned a few things along the way that I believe can help you scale yours.
Here are five simple things you can do to effortlessly scale your first business:
1. Start looking for additional revenue streams immediately.
Businesses become prone to failure when they become heavily reliant upon one or two sources of revenue. But that's fairly common knowledge. Where most entrepreneurs misstep is in waiting too long to pursue a new revenue stream once it has revealed itself. They say to themselves, "We're not ready yet, it'll be there later," and then by the time they get around to it, it's gone.
Remember the balance: know when you're overreaching into dangerous territory, but also don't be afraid to move swiftly. Just because a new revenue stream is there today, doesn't mean it will be there tomorrow.
2. Don't be afraid to cut what isn't working.
Over time, you will begin to notice what's working within your business and what isn't. As someone who has made this mistake and learned it the hard way, trust me when I say it's a mistake to keep things that are only bringing in marginal revenue.
The reason is because there is an opportunity cost that comes with everything. If you're spending your time managing resources that are under-performing, then that's time away from building or refining something that could perform exponentially better.
3. Utilize second-mover advantage.
Entrepreneurs get so caught up in wanting to be "first." But why?
There is great power in being a second-mover and early adopter. While all the other "pioneers" are out there failing fast and often, you can watch from afar and look for ways to improve upon their errors. Let them be first to market.
As we've seen in the past, first doesn't always mean it'll last--in fact, it rarely does. Myspace was first to market, long before Facebook. Where is Myspace today?
You don't need to reinvent the wheel in order to scale your business. Learn from the strides and missteps of others, and make improvements accordingly.
4. Know your space better than anyone else out there.
Where scaling decisions go awry is when the founder or CEO decides to side-step into a parallel market with which they are largely unfamiliar. They begin to achieve success in one lane and they think that success will automatically replicate itself in the next one (and the next one).
You are never done learning. And the moment you think you've got it all figured out, business will humble you for it.
Before you go leaping into new territories, take the time to do your due diligence. I have a boutique private equity firm called Crestar Partners, and I will tell you that I don't invest in a single company I don't fully understand, top to bottom.
With knowledge, your bets become intentional investments. Without knowledge, your bets are no different than gambling.
5. Ask for help--and seek out a mentor.
There is no shame in asking for help, or admitting that you don't know the answer.
So many first-time entrepreneurs want to do it all themselves. They want to prove how much they know, instead of just admitting what they don't know and opening themselves up to learn. As a result, they spin their wheels and end up learning everything the hard way.
I have mentored many young entrepreneurs, and I have been fortunate to have had a handful of incredibly impactful mentors along my own journey. Whether that's a family friend, a business acquaintance, or a friend that has spent a few more years in the trenches, mentor figures are everywhere. It's up to you to ask for help.
Just remember: You're not the first person to build or attempt to scale a company. So instead of trying to go at it alone, ask someone who has already sailed that ship and found land on the other side. Their insight will be priceless to you.