Looking toward the future is no uncommon task for entrepreneurs, and the most ambitious of entrepreneurs are confident that future growth is inevitable. As you build your rapport with your ever-growing list of clients or expanding products and services, you’ll be tasked with taking your business to the next level, if that is your desire.
Readying your business to take on a larger workload and still produce at the highest level is a serious undertaking; one that will take time. However, with a clear vision, refined processes and a strong team, you can make it happen. To make your business ready to grow over time, take these three steps.
Define a Business Plan
You’ve built a solid client base and you’re getting paid to do what you love, but you’re starting to see room for growth. To capitalize on your ambitions and begin to realize your business’s growth potential, you’ll first need a business plan that is scalable. Whether you’re hoping to land investments in your business or you’re just going for organic growth at first, you won’t achieve either if you’re a one-trick pony.
When you define your business plan, you may think you need to solve every problem all at once. This is not the case: you’re better off creating a strategy that puts an emphasis on continued product innovation or consistently high-value service delivery, depending on your offerings. A clear view of your niche in your market and the market segment in which you perform the best will help you define the direction in which you want grow.
Though you’ll have clearly defined a direction, you’ll want to leave your business plan open-ended to allow growth well into the future. This open-ended approach is attractive to investors and can evolve over time. Also remember that the most successful scalable businesses typically have high margins, so stay away from things like free services and long feature lists at this point. You’re not creating a product plan for customers.
Refine Your Processes
Once you’ve set forth your business plan, you should next focus on your day-to-day. What is it that you do everyday; what are the most time and labor-intensive aspects of your routine? Creating a scalable business is your opportunity to create well-defined processes for every aspect of your business—which is crucial.
It’s also a good idea to audit your products, services, and all of the processes that go with them. Are you charging the right prices and rates? Examine your billing and invoicing practices from different perspectives. You may want to explore offering packages or adjusting your per-hour billing habits. Lastly, think about your ability to accept payments. Being able to accept credit cards and mobile payments on top of just checks will go a long way when you begin to grow.
If you are manufacturing a product, you should remember that the most successful scalable businesses automate many processes and even outsource the non-strategic. You don’t ever want to rely on intellectual property you do not own, but growing all of the expertise required to do everything in-house is expensive and time-consuming. You should look to leverage outside resources.
If you are service-based, you should consider your client processes by examining what tasks you can streamline without sacrificing personal service. Set rules for client contact, like scheduled phone calls and meetings, and find ways to keep the client up-to-date while not sacrificing your time.
Build and Develop a Strong Team
At this stage, you’ve probably examined your plan and your processes and realized that you won’t be able to do it all yourself. Eventually, you’ll be taking yourself out of the critical path and turning over certain responsibilities to other people. It is crucial, then, that you hire and develop a team that you can trust to make the right decisions. You’ll need to educate them on your business plan and your processes, as you won’t be everywhere overseeing everything at all times.
With the right team in place, you’ll be able to transition from working “in” your business to working “on” your business, a crucial component to scaling your company. A thorough knowledge of your teams’ skill sets, collectively and individually, will allow you to create a hierarchy that looks more like a large corporation. This puts a structure in place that you can continually build on.
The future is wide open for your business. With a scalable strategy, lean and refined processes, and a strong team full of superstars, you can ensure that your future is bright and your growth and earnings potential are fully realized.
About the Author: Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, which helps businesses of all sizes accept credit cards. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors.