Entering a growth phase is an exciting time for any small business.

Customers are starting to understand your value proposition in large numbers, and you can finally afford to expand your company and invest in new initiatives. Yet, rapid growth can also be precarious if you aren't prepared. 

Small business leaders must be ready to scale their operations and respond to changes to avoid allowing growth to derail productivity and be the cause of their downfall.

At Amerisleep, my team and I have more than tripled our sales from 2016 to 2017. Of course, reaching this latest milestone hasn't been easy. Along the way, we've learned several valuable lessons about how to successfully manage fast growth. Below are four strategies that have helped us maintain firm control of our operations.

1. Focus on long-term hiring.

As your company experiences the rush of rapid growth, it's natural to assume you need to bolster your staff quickly. You may think that filling vacancies is the first priority, and once your operational capacity has stabilized, that it is time to take a closer look at your personnel's performance and make adjustments. As a leader, you have to resist this urge.

Pour your energy into creating hiring processes that will connect you with high-achievers who will understand your company values. This will help you reach your customers more effectively, create a value-added company culture, and save on employee turnover costs (the Society of Human Resources Management estimates every lost employee costs companies $7,000).

2. Build your network along with your business.

Rapid growth phases can be hectic, even when you have adaptable leaders.

One common reaction for entrepreneurs in these situations is to put everything they have into day-to-day operations, fearing the growth will overwhelm them if they lose focus even briefly. Your company deserves your attention, but it's important to remember that building and nurturing your network is vital to your success and mental well-being, especially during uncertain times.

Your connections will be important resources for you now and after your business has reached a period of stability.

3. Make customer retention a priority from day one.

When businesses experience fast growth, the unprecedented influx of new customers can become an exciting distraction. Entrepreneurs in this position may begin to focus solely on customer acquisition at the expense of the customer experience. However, the only way to ensure those buyers will return to complete repeat purchases and refer their friends to your brand is to invest in retaining paying shoppers.

In an article for CMO.com, entrepreneur Jerry Jao insists, "Customer retention should outweigh customer acquisition." Indeed, this is the most sustainable way to ensure consistent, healthy growth. In our business, we invest in educational materials to help shoppers get the most out of their purchase and we make personalized customer service a top priority. This leads to higher customer satisfaction, lower product return rates and more customer referrals.

4. Build a predictable sales and marketing model.

A predictable sales and marketing model is going to be your best friend during a growth period. It will help you forecast accurately, which in turn will help you invest your limited resources wisely. There will also be far less danger of you rapidly outselling your operational capacity and fizzling out.

When you build your company on a foundation of predictable revenue, you can grow at a steady pace that allows you to scale effectively.