When you think of a failing business, usually you’d assume it must have been due to a lack of money, slow sales, or even poor planning and execution.
But in reality, huge business growth and strong sales can be the downfall of small businesses — if they’re completely unprepared for it.
When your business grows, problems like high expenses, inventory shortages or delays, too few staff, and a lack of direction are all common. In order to avoid these problems, it’s important that you plan things carefully before you dive headfirst into action.
So whether you’re currently feeling growing pains in your business, or you want to make sure you avoid this altogether when you do begin to grow, you can use these steps to help you.
Be willing to change and adapt
What worked for you when your business consisted of just you working on your laptop from your kitchen table, probably won’t work for you as you begin to grow and take on a team.
Similarly, moving from a small team to a larger team probably also requires new policies, processes, and procedures to match the new structure in place.
Instead of burying your head in the sand and resisting change because you like how you do things now, be open to adapting and making things even better.
You might be tempted to keep your old systems in place, and not train your staff in new processes, but in the long term, this will only create a decline in morale, and an increase in unhappy customers.
Be clear on where you want to grow
Rapid growth is what we all want as business owners, but it can lead to a lot of chaos.
When you’re clear on the goals and direction of your business, and where you want to grow, this means you’re able to keep yourself focused and on track; and also keep your staff filled with a sense of purpose, interest, and direction.
When everyone is on the same page and understands what they’re working towards, employees can measure their own progress, and know what they need to do on a day-to-day basis, as well as with the bigger long terms objectives.
Let employees know what’s going on
The bigger businesses become, the fewer employees tend to be kept in the loop and know what’s going on at a higher level. And if they don’t know what’s happening, they’re more likely to become disengaged, and unappreciated, which can often lead to them looking around for employment elsewhere.
The way to avoid this is to create and maintain a culture of transparency in your business, regardless of how much you grow. Keep them informed about big decisions as soon as they’re made, and they’ll continue to feel like they matter and are a part of your mission.
Adjust your budget and monitor your expenses
As your business grows, your revenue and expenditures will naturally change. By regularly updating your budget to match your current situation, as well as future projections, you’ll be able to keep pace with your business growth.
Smaller businesses should look at and revise their budgets frequently — more often than larger ones. If you’re in a period of dynamic growth, you should consider doing so every couple of months.
At the same time, try keeping your expense estimates and revenue projections updated too. There are lots of accounting software programs that will take the hassle out of this by keeping your income and expense figures all in one place so that you know exactly what’s available to spend.
Hire sufficient staff
Most people start their businesses solo or with a handful of staff, with each person taking on multiple roles. If you’re business hits a period of major growth, you can end up running short of hands, and putting unnecessary pressure and frustrations on your current employees.
If you don’t have enough people to cover day to day tasks, customer service and quality can quickly drop, which can lead to you going backward in terms of your business growth.
Check in regularly with your employees to see how they’re currently feeling, and where they feel like they might need additional help. Are they doing any tasks that are unnecessary or could be minimized?
You could always opt to outsource additional tasks to remote workers, to begin with, before taking on an employee.
You might be used to doing all the important tasks in your business, but as it grows, it’s important to learn to delegate responsibilities out to other people. Initially, it will take time and resources to train someone to do this, but this will be more valuable for you and your business in the long run.
It might be difficult to let go and trust other people to do just as good of a job as you, but if you want your business to continue to grow, this is crucial.
Make sure you have enough good managers
Being a successful manager requires completely different skills to someone who is a “doer” (a salesperson, office worker etc.); and usually requires proper training. Without the necessary skills, communication and delegation skills will often be poor, which will lead to employees feeling like they have a lack of direction or authority from their managers.
Investing your resources in enough good managers will mean tasks are delegated efficiently throughout the business, and everyone is focused on a clear set of objectives.
Have fewer meetings
Meetings have a bad rep in many head offices, where little to nothing gets achieved through a series of informal discussions. Too many of these can leave employees feeling like the company has no direction, and can also eat away into everyone’s precious time, leaving more pressing tasks incomplete.
If you must have a meeting, keep it short and sweet, make sure you stay on topic and have a detailed agenda. Everyone should know why they’re there, and leave with a clear sense of what they need to do.
All businesses will experience growing pains at some point or another, as you try to scale it. But this isn’t all bad news — it can actually be an incredible opportunity to learn, get out of your comfort zone, and discover your real strengths.
Starting and building a business isn’t easy — but you probably know that, and chose to do it anyway because you’re not afraid of hard work, challenges, and a little risk. Remember this when things get tough, and continue to show up for yourself and your team each day.