Why Scaling Your Business Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
Regardless where your business is in terms of growth or expansion, being able to scale affordably without disruptions is almost always a high-priority goal. A common misconception is that scaling a business requires big expenses on capital equipment, labor, and productivity tools needed to be able to handle larger and larger workloads.
The reality is that broadening the capacity of your business to serve more clients or customers doesn’t necessarily require massive investments as long as a common-sense strategy is used.
Destination: Lean Growth
To best learn how to affordably scale a small business, it helps to start by anticipating where the bottlenecks in workflow will arise. What would happen if, all of a sudden, your business received a purchase order for products or services that amount to more than twice the size of the biggest order you’ve ever received to date. Aside from everyone high-fiving in congratulations of the great sale, what would happen?
Consider the most realistic roadblocks that would spring up if sales volume was immediately doubled or even tripled. Where would the bottlenecks exist? For many small business owners, delivering on a colossal order is going to create strain in at least a few of the following areas:
Entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses often end up wearing multiple hats. The sales hat, the order entry hat, the shipping and receiving hat, and so on. How your business operates at scale will eventually require the removal of all of those hats, so that a function like operations can be grown independently, as needed.
A great tool to use to do this affordably is an operation-specific Customer Relationship Management platform, or CRM. Some of the more popular CRM’s for operations include Copper, Zoho One, and Bitrix 24. What’s more, many of these tools are completely free for smaller operations.
Even with the best, most efficient sales, marketing, project management, and operations functions, an overloaded or suboptimal supply chain can cause real problems when the time comes to scale your business. Relying on suppliers that have limited production runs or long delivery timelines can put your performance in jeopardy, which is why overhauling your supply chain might make sense before you enter a scaling phase.
How exactly is this done? It’s different for every business, but there are a few key points to keep in mind. First, use your sales forecasts as your bible for managing your supply chain. Without booked sales to point to, it’s hard to get the most from the suppliers you’re working with. Second, invest in the companies that are critical to the fulfillment of your orders. For example, if a manufacturing phase addition is needed to keep your products shipping on-time, view the cost to do this as an investment in not just the future of your company, but the welfare of the supplier that’s needed to keep things moving. When they grow, you grow.
That landmark deal for 50,000 widgets might be fairly easy to fulfill on-time, but are you going to have the post-sale resources to support the customer down the road? A rising trend in small businesses looking to scale quickly is actually outsourcing customer service. Before you write this off as something that can only be managed by India-based call centres staffed by non-native English speakers, consider why companies like Service have become so successful. This Los Angeles-based technology startup helps to offload the customer service burden without sacrificing the quality of the overall customer experience. If done correctly, outsourcing your customer service function can actually be a seamless and profitable way to give more operating capacity to your small business, just in time for scaling.
Just 10-15 years ago, growing a business to accommodate the demands of an increasing customer base necessarily involved certain expenses that were considered part-and-parcel of the scaling effort. Today, thanks to smart technology and professional services tailored to growing companies, a lot more can be done with a lot less money. Take advantage of these innovations and see for yourself how far a little ingenuity can really go.
Cost-Correct Your Entire Enterprise
When your business was first started, it’s likely that you were incredibly frugal, only spending money where ROI was obvious, and utility could be realized immediately. But, as businesses grow – especially during the time following initial investment rounds or seed funding – spending on productivity tools can get out of control. This is why, in anticipation of scaling, it’s a well-known best practice to conduct a thorough cost audit of every aspect of your business, from how much employees are paid to what internet service provider you’re using. Nothing helps a business scale better than trimming the fat, eliminating redundant resources, and making sure you’re firing on all cylinders without using too much gasoline.
Another lesser-known tactic to employ in the effort of reducing expenses is to get creative about how necessary functions of your business are funded. For example, did you know that there are grants available to small business from companies like FedEx, which can be just the welcomed windfall you might need to bring your enterprise to the next level? Even the federal government can help with grants provided through the Government of Canada. When it comes to getting cost-correct throughout your company, leave nothing off the table and leave no stone unturned. Your resourcefulness will pay off in the long run.
By implementing the strategies outlined here, you can start the chain of events that will eventually lead to a manageable, affordable, and at least somewhat predictable scaling of your small business. As was mentioned earlier, no two businesses will scale the same, and the resources required to do so will vary widely from one business to another. But many principles remain universally applicable for businesses across the board. Adopt them and make their power work for you.
Kevin is the founder of Vast Bridges, a lead generation and customer acquisition firm focused on helping companies grow. In his role, Kevin gets to follow his passion of developing and implementing a strategic business for different companies, something that has allowed him to become an expert on the different ways of growing a business.