Are you ready to scale your business? If you've been planning to grow, but haven't thought through how it affects every aspect of what you do and how you do it, you may need to take more time to plan and prepare. Scaling your business is about being able to handle the workload you're receiving, including the pressures that come with it.
So how do you know if you're really, truly ready to scale? Katya Sarmiento, a systems strategist for online businesses, says she sees four primary red flags when auditing new clients that signal they're not ready to scale.
1. Inconsistent income
This is one of the biggest signs that a business isn't ready to scale. If you aren't bringing in a steady income, it doesn't mean you can't scale, it just means you shouldn't scale right now. Take time to focus on generating more leads and more sales to bring in a consistent income before taking the steps to scale your business.
"If you are bringing in a consistent income, but still struggling with money there may be a profit problem," said Sarmiento.
"Take a close look at your financial statements, or better yet, have a financial advisor or bookkeeper review your financial statements to determine where all of your money is currently going and to provide suggestions on where it should be going."
2. You're not growing
Sarmiento says her conversations with new clients usually begins with similar frustrations. They are working 12 or more hours a day and find they do everything themselves because their employees "don't get it" and ask too many questions about how to do things.
"Those are two signs your business is ready to scale: burnout and lack of processes and procedures," she said.
Burnout is your body's response to chronic stress that leaves you feeling constantly tired, overwhelmed, and behind on your work. Other symptoms include anger, depression, and insomnia. Burnout is increasingly common in the workplace, especially for solopreneurs and entrepreneurs.
If you're just starting out and you're stressed, that's normal. Working from sun up to sun down, or later, as you're establishing your business is typical. It may be something that continues for weeks or even months as you prepare to and eventually launch your business. You need to focus on growth, such as growing your income, your client base, and your audience.
But if you've been in business for a while, have a steady income, maybe even have some team members, and are still working 14 plus hours a day, you're going to burn out.
3. You're not willing to automate
"Most business owners are acting as business employees and have their hands in all areas of the business," said Sarmiento.
"They're micromanaging their team instead of empowering them to have their own responsibilities or job functions, and make their own decisions."
Sarmiento says a good example is a client she recently worked with who relied on a manual process to do everything, including invoicing clients via email and had no clear processes or systems for his business. If something were to happen to him that would cause him to step away from the business unexpectedly, no one would be able to take his place, know what to do and how to do it.
In this example, she says, if he had a system in place such as Quickbooks and then he had to step away, another employee could step in and keep the business running as smoothly as possible.
Sarmiento advises that you take the time to create a policy and procedures or standard operating procedures manual/playbook for your business that includes everything from accounting, billing, email, job descriptions, how-to's, client welcome kits and emergency procedures.
Once the manual is written, make a list of the procedures that you are currently doing manually. What items on the list can be automated by a system, such as email automation or social media scheduling? By changing manual procedures to automated, it will allow yourself and your employees more time for other tasks.
4. You have the wrong business model
One of the most important questions to ask yourself as you scale is, "What can I delegate to another team member?"
If you aren't sure of the answer to this question, it may not be time to scale your business - yet.
"If you're managing your workload successfully and it's consistent, then it may be time to work on growing your business by securing more leads or sales, or perhaps by increasing your prices," said Sarmiento.
"Once the business starts to grow, ask yourself that question again."
Sarmiento also points out that your business model may be creating the problem.
"For example, if you're a one-on-one coach and aren't willing or ready to incorporate other offerings such as group programs or online courses, it will never be time to scale your business since the business is whole-heartedly reliant on you and your expertise."
If you're in this situation, also think about what will happen if you get sick or have an emergency and need to be out of the office for an extended period of time. Or perhaps you want to take a much needed, deserved vacation.
Is there a contingency plan? All of these items should be taken into consideration to adjust business model before you can think about scaling your business. Adjusting your business model will allow you to handle the workload and be able to have a vacation or rest when you're sick.
Being at a point where you can scale your business is something to celebrate, just make sure you aren't rushing into it.