Your business is growing at a rapid and escalating rate – what’s wrong with that, you might ask? Well, nothing – provided you can keep up with it. However, like wildfire, if your business grows too fast too soon, it could end up burning out as a result. Growing a successful business is a long-distance race – you’ve got to learn to pace yourself in order to still have some puff later down the line. Here are 7 tips for controlling the growth of your small or medium-sized business and staying in demand with customers and clients.
1. Learn to Delegate
If you’re running a small company, you need to understand and stay on top of every aspect of your business. However, that doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. If your business suddenly starts growing fast and you’re the only one who knows how things work or can make decisions, you’re going to be overstretched in no time. To protect against this, assemble a strong and well-rounded team whose skill sets complement each other. Make sure everyone understands your business vision and then give them power to implement it.
2. Continue to do your Research
Market research isn’t something you commission prior to launching your business and forget about afterwards. Business climates and conditions are constantly changing and your market research should be following all the latest developments. Keeping up with relevant trends and information is crucial, as making big decisions based on out of date information is a sure-fire recipe for business failure.
3. Don’t Become a Victim of your own Success
The more you grow your business, the more your competitors will react to your success – whether by lowering their prices or innovating with new products. If you’re not following where your own products are in their lifecycles and innovating to stay ahead of your rivals, you could see your growth cut short quickly as once-loyal customers seek out a better deal elsewhere.
4. Keep an Eye on your Cash Flow
Maintaining a healthy cash flow is critical for any business and it’s one area where sudden growth can cause major – and potentially destabilising – problems. As your business grows, you need to carefully control every aspect of your working capital to ensure positive cash flow. At the same time, manage your credit lines effectively and keep a tight rein on debts as well as outstanding payments. A large order at a cash-poor moment could jeopardise a valuable business relationship if you don’t have the resources to deliver. To avoid such occurrences, plan ahead for your financing needs and arrange suitable funding by borrowing or offering an equity stake.
New businesses often learn on the hoof, reacting to one crisis after another in order to manage growth. However, as your business grows, you need to be able to look further than the next crisis around the corner. You may solve a customer issue today but if you aren’t laying the foundations for substantial sales growth in the future, you’re not using your time wisely. For example, are you spending enough time developing your brand or protecting your intellectual property? If you can identify the key drivers of growth, this will help you to prioritise and focus your resources on what’s most important to your long-term success.
6. Streamline your Systems
Many small businesses still use old-fashioned systems and outdated technology to handle their business information. The reasoning goes that investment in new systems costs money that isn’t yet demanded by customer volume. However, if your business starts to grow rapidly, so will the volume of information produced by your company – everything from financial records, customer and employee details, business contacts and regulatory requirements. The informal system you had with a few employees won’t work with a large team and if you don’t have a well-organised system for managing everything, you’re going to lose track of vital information. Having streamlined systems in place is a combination of investing in new technology – such as cloud-based applications, powerful hardware and mobile devices – and hiring individuals whose job it is to handle and analyse this information to put your business in the driving seat.
It takes time and money to recruit the best candidates and train them sufficiently for your investment to start paying off. If your business starts growing quickly, you may not have the luxury of time and your current office may be too cramped to accommodate many new faces. One solution to increasing labour resources while staying nimble as a business is to outsource the tasks you require to freelance workers – everything from handling your business accounts to writing marketing copy or redesigning your website can be outsourced, without the long-term commitment of taking on new employees. If customer enquiries are swamping your reception desk, you can also outsource this and other customer-based services to a professional contact centre, freeing up employees for more important tasks.
It’s a cliché that you can have too much of a good thing but that’s certainly the case with rapid business growth. Managing all aspects of your business to tackle short-term problems and plan for long-term success will ensure your business keeps moving forward without running out of steam.