You’re an ambitious entrepreneur. You have a small business… but you also have big dreams. And you don’t expect your small business to remain small forever. Indeed, you have your sights set on nothing short of global domination in your chosen sector. And while your ambition is certainly laudable, there’s a good argument to be made for keeping a small business small. Small businesses generally have fewer overheads, less prospective cash flow trouble, the potential for less stressful working days and the propensity to build happy, rewarding relationships with your clientele.
As grand as your ambitions may be, there’s absolutely no shame in choosing to be the best small business that you can be rather than courting risk by chasing growth. Still, if you’re certain that taking your business to enterprise level is the path you want to take, it’s vital that you take a careful and considered approach to growth.
If you try and scale up your business too quickly without the proper infrastructure behind you, you may find that growth is more of a curse than a blessing…
The downside of business growth
You may have a very firm grasp on your operations at present. Even the pandemic and subsequent lockdown (though certainly not without their challenges) didn’t stall your operations. But while you may have navigated the challenges of catering to your market in changing circumstances with aplomb, growth will bring challenges on a much grander scale.
While you will certainly have more revenue, you will also invariably have more overheads, more logistical considerations, more friction when adopting new tech and operational strategies, and more potential headaches and stress for you.
While that’s certainly not to say that your business can’t scale for growth effectively. It’s simply suggesting that you should take a good long look before you dive in headfirst.
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself before making the decision to proactively upscale your business and expand your reach…
Do you have the digital infrastructure to facilitate growth?
With growth comes a host of potential problems when it comes to upscaling your digital infrastructure. It presents you with a new wealth of logistical, operational and security vulnerabilities that could either lead to a loss of quality in service or even grind your operations to a halt. Neither of which is a great look for your customers. And at a time when they have more reason to be fickle than ever in the wake of the pandemic, you can never presume to get a second chance from them.
As such, one of your first priorities should be to ensure that your network is sufficiently robust to manage your business’ growth. Especially if a substantial proportion of your workforce are working remotely.
It should not only be scalable but proactive in its security measures. For instance, if you’re thinking of making 5G and the Internet of Things a part of your digital infrastructure, this can enable you to expand your reach and facilitate remote working from virtually anywhere. However, with IoT comes a new raft of security risks that you’ll need to stay on top of. Take a look at the Oracle 5G next generation core for a potential solution. Migrating as much of your infrastructure to the cloud as possible is usually advantageous for growth-minded businesses. Firstly, the cloud is near-infinitely scalable, and your provision can be scaled up or down dependent on your needs. So you don’t need to worry about excessive costs for services that you’re not getting, nor do you need to worry about a loss, slowing or compromise of the service that your customers have come to expect from you?
Are my team up to the challenge?
Your unique vision, skills and experience may have shaped everything that your business is, but it’s the hard work, effort and endeavor of your team that bring that unique vision to life for your customers every day. It’s their interactions with your clientele that keep them coming back, facilitating the growth that you experience in the first place.
You’re a great boss! You’re able to motivate your team and bring out the best in them. You’re able to inspire them and encourage them to perform in ways that exceed your (and even their own) expectations.
But with growth comes an increased workload for your team. And as hard working, diligent and dedicated as your team are, you can’t expect them to be at their best when their workload is effectively doubled. Putting too much of a strain on your employees can lead to increased stress, anxiety and frustration at work. And even if you’re compensating them handsomely for their efforts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t buckle under pressure. Or that their nerves won’t be frayed in ways that your customers will perceive. And if your employees seem tired, irritable or stressed, this will reflect badly on them and you.
After all, would you want to do business with someone who didn’t seem to be treating their employees as well as they deserved?
Do I have the time and capital to recruit more employees?
Your current employees may not be enough to sustain your business growth (talented and hard-working though they may be). As such, you may need to bring new team members into your ranks in line with your growth.
But this brings its own set of challenges.
Recruitment is an infamously costly and time-intensive process. You know that the success of your growth depends on your ability to find the right people. And that means you can’t afford to rush it. But can your business afford to lose you for the necessary hours that it will take to trawl through dozens or even hundreds of CVs, find the right candidates and carry out as many interviews as it takes to assure you that you’ve found the perfect fit? What about the rest of the interview panel? Can your operation afford to lose them without disruption of the service your customers expect of you?
And even once you’ve recruited great candidates, there’s still the time and cost that goes into training and onboarding them so that they can hit the ground running, as well as the inevitable teething issues that come with getting them up to speed.
Furthermore, what happens if your seemingly ideal candidate makes for a less than stellar employee? You’re back to the drawing board!
As adamant as many entrepreneurs are that nobody’s better positioned to find the perfect candidates for their business than they are, recruitment experts say otherwise. The gut instinct that’s intrinsic to many small business hires can lead to recruitment mismatches that end up being very costly for your business, resulting in high voluntary turnover and all the costs and disruptions associated with it.
You may find that outsourcing recruitment is a much more cost-effective way to ensure that you always have access to the right talent. Which brings us to…
Will outsourcing help me to grow my business sustainably?
Whatever plans you have for growth in the immediate future, it’s safe to say that they will demand a lot of you time and attention. And this may be inevitable if you want to grow your business, but it can also prove detrimental to your business operations (not to mention your own mental health). As such, you may need a helping hand in managing and scaling certain aspects of your operations. So that, as far as your existing customers are concerned, everything is business as usual.
Many entrepreneurs are resistant to the idea of outsourcing certain functions of their operation. They are very particular about doing things in their own unique way. However, outsourcing certain functions like IT, marketing, HR and recruitment can actually enhance your ability to cater to your target market. They prevent your attention from being stretched too thin and allow you to do what you do best even better.
Which brings us to…
Can you still maintain your brand identity as you increase in scale?
Can you grow your brand while still maintaining its integrity and identity? The things that your customers expect from you when they use your business. The things that made them choose you at the expense of your competitors.
Your instinctive answer is probably “Yes, of course!”. But take a moment to really think about it. Are you even the best person to be able to answer this question? It may be worth asking your customers. What do they value most about your business? What is it that keeps them coming back? What are you offering them that your competitors either don’t or can’t?
Once you have this data, you need to take an honest and uncompromising look at your operations and ensure that you’ll still be able to deliver in all the ways that matter to your core clientele.
After all, you can’t grow your business if you don’t have a strong foundation to build upon.
As you can see, while business growth can be a blessing in many ways, you need to take active steps as early as possible to ensure that it doesn’t become a curse.