You’ve worked hard to establish your small business, and now it’s time to grow. If you’ve never taken a company to the next level, however, the prospect can be daunting. You know it’s time to expand—but how? Learning how to scale a business might be easier than you think.
From understanding what you want to accomplish to outsourcing and automating processes, there are tried-and-true methods to grow your company. Follow these time-honored tips to scale your small business.
1. Know your goals from the start
Before taking a single action, you and your team need to sit down and outline your goals for scaling up. What, specifically, do you want to accomplish? How will it benefit your company? How can you attract your target customer? At this point, you probably have a good sense of what your company does best and how your customers respond. When you know your goals, it’s easier to create a path to get there.
When considering your goals, remember employee and customer loyalty is key. Both of these groups want to feel like they share in your overall vision. For instance, if you run a local CSA delivery, your business goal might be to expand your service area. Now ask yourself how this fits into your company’s vision. Perhaps you’re passionate about eliminating food deserts and making organic produce available and affordable to all: this is what builds loyalty and gets people excited to help you achieve those goals. Build that vision into each task.
2. Consider outside investors
When you’re determining how to scale your business, you may need to consider outside investors. Not every company will need an investment when they expand, but many do.
One of the best ways to do this is to secure backing from a venture capital firm. Because they invest in multiple companies, they’re uniquely positioned to guide your business through the scaling process.
If venture capital isn’t right for you, loans are an option—but don’t forget the power of crowdfunding, either. Kickstarter and GoFundMe are two popular options. Crowdfunding has the added bonus of making your loyal customers feel like they have a stake in the company. Just remember to keep your investors and micro-investors happy: consider what kind of equity or perks you’ll offer in return.
3. Outline roles and responsibilities for each team member
Next, turn your attention to your team. When everyone knows their role and responsibilities, they’ll have a better idea of what they can do to serve your goals and vision. Depending on your current company size and goals, it’s often worth sitting down with each individual team member to determine what they can and are willing to contribute. Make sure to outline those roles and responsibilities before you begin the rest of the small business scaling process.
4. Standardize all of your current systems
Whether you have offices, retail locations, warehouses, or everyone works remotely, your company already has systems in place. Critically evaluate these systems. What’s working? What can be improved?
When you know what changes need to be made, you can start standardizing each system—whether that’s how shipments are processed, your point-of-sale system, or how employees clock in each day. Everything needs to be uniform across the board. This will eliminate confusion and prevent costly errors. It also ensures that you can quickly onboard new hires, and if an old team member leaves, company knowledge won’t disappear with them.
5. Upgrade your digital systems
Even if your company doesn’t rely heavily on technology, every business needs digital systems that can grow along with them. At the very least, you’ll want to make sure that your technology (or lack thereof) doesn’t impede on business operations and growth.
Depending on your business type, your needs might range from a website with an intuitive content management system (CMS) to a server room that offers upgrade and expansion capabilities. Determine how upgraded technology will serve your end goals and vision, then make the necessary changes.
6. Consider your supply chain
When considering how to scale a small business, many companies overlook one major factor: the supply chain. As we know from the last few years, gaps and delays in the supply chain can seriously affect any business, large or small. What happens if your company is suddenly unable to find a certain product or component?
This is particularly critical if you rely on hard-to-source items. For instance, if your furniture company relies on reclaimed wood from barns, suddenly scaling your business could make it difficult to find enough raw materials to support increased production. Create a backup plan for emergencies—and don’t be afraid to get creative, even if that means adjusting your product line or services.
7. Find ways to outsource
As your company grows, your ability to devote time to some tasks and processes will diminish. Consider outsourcing the biggest time investments. For example, you might not want to hire an in-house HR team and bookkeeper just yet, but both of those jobs can easily be sent outside the company.
8. Consider automating certain processes
Finally, think about how technology can impact how you scale a small business. We live in an era when many processes can be automated, from customer support tickets to online orders. If automation makes sense for your company, take advantage of the opportunity—it’s a great way to help streamline your processes and standardize your systems company-wide. Plus, you’ll save time, so you and your employees can focus on what can’t be outsourced and automated.
Depending on your industry, your scaling process may include additional steps. Use these tips as a starting point—and don’t forget to seek expert advice from your network, as needed.
Even if you’re not quite ready to expand, knowing how to scale a business is a wise investment in your future. Your team can implement many of these tips now, so when the time comes to scale up, you’ll be ready to go. Making decisions with future growth in mind is one of the savviest things a business owner can do.