Whether you own a professional service business with a small office or a bustling retail establishment with a growing group of employees, managing growth is always a challenge. While you may know everything about the products and services you offer, day-to-day operational issues like cash flow problems, employee issues, increased demand, or lack of capital to invest in growth can stall your progress.
To help grow your company in a strategic and successful way, follow these four steps to build a growth map.
1. Establish processes. As your company grows, you'll need to establish processes, says marketing consultant Gail Gardner, founder of GrowMap.com. These varied series of steps or actions related to specific tasks ensure that your business maintains consistent levels of service and quality, even as new employees take on the role of serving your customers.
Let's say you once handled every aspect of sales, scheduling, and work product for your consulting business. As the business expanded, you needed to hire an administrative assistant and one additional consultant to help you service new customers. So, now when clients call, they may first interact with your assistant or your new consultant instead of you. To keep track of increased activity and ensure work is delivered on time, you may use a popular project management application. These types of processes may get more complex as your company grows, but they're good tools for maintaining high service levels.
2. Maintain quality. As your business grows, be sure you understand how much business you can handle and still maintain the high levels of quality and customer service for which your business is known, Gardner says. Taking on more work or larger orders without the necessary resources or capital will just lead to unhappy customers.
To scale your business properly, measure the time and resources it takes to meet current sales levels. Project how much more investment, staff, and materials would be necessary to take on 20 percent or 50 percent more business. This will help you see where you may need additional investment or growth management so that you can keep up with the added costs.
3. Find the right team. Eventually, you'll need help managing the demands of a growing business. Hire team members who add new skills and abilities to your team, Gardner advises. Today, many accomplished professionals are offering their services on a freelance or contract basis, allowing you to hire talent when you need it without paying for a full-time employee. But, be sure that the person you hire is doing the work and not using less-skilled subcontractors, she warns. When you do need to add full-time employees, ensure you have the income to afford them, she adds.
4. Forecast cash and investment. Economic uncertainty is one of the biggest barriers for Small to Medium Businesses. Monitor revenue ebbs and flows due to sales fluctuations or collection issues, and take appropriate action. If late payers are a problem, collect a 50 percent deposit, invoice sooner, and follow up on late payments. If sales are slow, ramp up sales and marketing efforts or target new markets.
As you monitor revenue growth, note seasonal cycles, highly profitable offerings, and where you can invest for further growth. Identify the steps necessary to capitalize on those opportunities. You may also find that building a credit safety net, including a business line of credit, can give you the tools you need to overcome short-term disruptions in cash flow.
Sustainable growth is strategic. Create solid processes, mind your money, and find the right people and growth rate. These actions will give your business a solid foundation to build on for the long-term.