By Abhi Golhar, host of Real Estate Deal Talk and managing partner of Summit & Crowne.
Part of any small business owner's dream is to have rapid growth knock on their door. Unfortunately, it can come with caveats. Rapid growth also means an increased demand for your product, which puts pressure on your systems, people and manufacturing. I've seen firsthand how a small business can reach a plateau quickly if rapid growth is handled poorly.
In 2010, I was a business operations advisor to a medical education startup based in Atlanta. There was a great need for the business's services, and it scaled from launch to roughly $60,000 a month in revenue within three months. Though the owners had warm hearts, they quickly became blinded by increasing revenues and lost focus on the business. Specifically, the clients began to be treated like transactions, and the owners weren't willing to expand and grow their reach using the right technology and people. Having the rapid growth is a blessing, but can easily turn into a curse. Here are a few things you can do to keep that from happening:
Don't Slack Off When It Comes to Customer Experience
One of the first things that falls off when a company can't handle an influx of new customers is the customer experience. On the manpower side, these businesses often don't have the staff to handle so many new people, but they can't afford to ignore anyone. Customers are kept on hold or shuffled to automated answering systems. If you're lucky, that'll be the only problem you face. You may have a customer experience that isn't suited to scaling that quickly, which can put your growth spurt on hold.
Once the growth starts and you're sure it's going to keep going, start expanding your customer support team. While you do risk being overstaffed should the growth spurt end abruptly, it's better to err on the side of caution, because weak customer service will definitely put a stop to it.
Hire Temps or Contract Workers
When your company grows, your staff needs to grow with it. Your main point of contention is how many you'll actually need. Hire too many, and you're spending money that could be used elsewhere. Get too few, and you're spending money without actually solving the staffing issue.
While you could opt to hire as you need, that may still cost you in productivity and production. Utilize contract workers, temps and freelancers. Not only will this help limit costs, but it'll also give you a better feel for how many people you'll actually need when it comes time to hire permanent staff.
Adapt Your Current Practices and Systems
Sticking to your guns is great in certain situations, but not when your small business is blooming and booming. The situation is changing, and you need to adapt to it. Thought processes, systems and mindsets that worked when your business was just chugging along won't always work when translated to a growth strategy.
This often boils down to being flexible. Your company's changing, so you need to change with it. Be more open to expenditures that provide scalable value to your company.
Figure Out What's Causing Growth
Nothing lasts forever. The storm of customers will eventually settle down. Some small businesses have collapsed right after a gold rush because they didn't recognize when the growth was likely to cease, and their expenditures became too much to support.
Understanding why your company's suddenly getting more business is important to many of your future decisions. It'll decide how much more of your product should be available on hand, as well as inform human resources just how many people they should hire. Most importantly, it'll give you an idea of when things will slow down, so you can appropriately shift gears.
Growth is not something a lot of people are experienced with, especially first-time entrepreneurs. There are plenty of curveballs to dodge, and while you can learn from failure, failure at this juncture could cost you everything. Fortunately, there's nothing stopping you from getting help. Finding a mentor or community that can give you tips and advice can help immensely.
Rapid growth is exciting, but it's also dangerous and volatile. It can easily turn against you if you don't treat it with the respect it deserves. Do so, and you'll secure a brighter future for your small business.
Abhi Golhar is the host of Real Estate Deal Talk and managing partner of Summit & Crowne, a real estate investment firm in Atlanta.