So much of the foundation we put down in our business at the start will pay off later. On the flip side, if we don’t start building the business for its future state today, change can be much harder down the track. Ultimately if your vision is a bigger, broader business with more people, you’ll want to be thinking about what scaling looks like at each stage along the way.
In this article we touch on some ways to manage business structure effectively to plan ahead.
What does your ideal business look like?
None of us have a crystal ball into the future, but daring to dream about what your future business could look like isn’t simply a motivator - but an important step in planning effectively. When you’ve got a clear picture of what ‘utopia’ looks like, you can start to make decisions in the business today that will steer towards that future business. In fact, once the ‘ideal’ business is articulated clearly, many other business functions can be fine tuned straight away.
While we wouldn’t ever suggest ‘fake it until you make it’, there are many ways to run a business at a small scale that translate well as things grow. This includes:
- Having a sales process and relationship management approach
- Streamlining digital platforms including website
- Formulating a brand message and identity
- Nurturing relationships with suppliers and partners
- Building sturdy financial reporting and accounting processes
What are your strengths as the business owner?
This one can get missed but it’s actually quite an important piece of the ‘scaling’ puzzle. A business owner may feel inclined (or obliged) to become the CEO or General Manager by default. It’s a common misconception. Those who own and start the business may have done so off the back of a great idea, technical ability or other motivator. If you’re the owner, you will have built in leadership expectations, but this doesn’t mean ‘people’ necessarily.
Understanding what your own strengths are as a business owner is worth the time to figure out. You may even want to lean on those around you to identify these areas. Some business owners find their sweet spot is in the sales and growth areas, others innovation and others motivating people. When you know what value you add, you’re able to start planning for a bigger business with the hiring decisions you make from now on.
What functions are best delegated to trusted people?
Every hiring decision is important, but as a small business you feel the benefit or challenge of new people even more. With a clear view of what you bring to the table, you can make smarter choices around the roles you need to start introducing to the business.
If you’ve already got a small team of people you trust to be part of the business’ growth journey, you can start positioning them in roles the business will need. While today’s version of your business may not require particularly complicated systems and ways of working, getting these practices introduced early can make it easier to scale up later.
You may even find that certain people in your team take care of particular functions alongside their other duties in the business - creating pathways for those functions to become full time roles when the business requires it.
Some of the functions to think about include:
- Day to day operations
- Customer service
- Office manager
- R&D / Innovation
Where are the gaps in capability?
With that said, there’s a good chance that you’ll have some gaps in the business in terms of skills and experience that will need to be brought in to help scale the business the way you want. Sometimes it’s as black and white as needing people based in other locations. For other functions, you may need to look out into the market for existing talent with applicable experience. Some roles may be fostering development in existing team members to be capable.
It’s important to do a 360 review of your business and its skills gaps in order to plan accordingly - as a growing business, sales and performance will unlock hiring (if you’re not receiving outside investment), so it makes sense to have a clear view of the next most important skills to introduce.
Mapping out different phases of scaling
So you’ve got a picture of the ideal business, where your skills lie, the existing capabilities of your team and where the gaps are. With this information you can start to determine what growth in headcount might look like.
You might even find it easiest to draw a diagram of the business today and its structure, then showing what the next stage might look like - who in the business now shuffles around, what new roles come into the business, and who reports to who? Based on the business’ capabilities currently and any clear deficiencies in your operation, it should become reasonably clear who the next hires will likely be.
Do the research into new locations early
Does your business’ grand plan involve different areas across New Zealand or even other countries? It might be a way off before you make that step, but consider what you could do before then that will make an expansion easier. This might include things like looking into your target markets and doing analysis around competitors, customer needs and likely operating expenses.
And before you do make that big jump, make sure your house is in order - that means the business’ financial reporting is up to date and you’ve got the right people in place.
Capture processes and guidelines
It’s not often you’ll come across a business owner that gets especially excited about process documentation. And that’s fair enough, it’s not exactly the most glamorous part of business. But when there are some captured processes and guidelines for the team to refer to, scaling is much easier. These processes can outline things like:
- Onboarding processes
- Ordering/supply chain
- Customer support
You will have to update these periodically, but sometimes the more effective processes are those that are kept simple and clear. It doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time, but getting something documented and stored in a central place like a cloud drive is a great practice to have in the business.
Prioritise fostering a great culture from the start
A business’ culture is hard enough to shape with a small business, let alone a scaling business with dozens or even hundreds of staff. As a business owner, you can make investments in your team culture now through the hiring decisions you make, the team building activities and crucially, the day to day ‘default’ ways of working - including how leaders communicate with their team. As the nucleus of your business is strengthened through a positive, productive culture, it’s much easier (although still a challenge) to carry this through into a bigger structure. Culture isn’t a set of ideals written on a website - it’s a living energy within the business that owners and leaders help direct.
Focus on existing customer retention first, then acquisition
Scaling often accompanies periods of customer acquisition / sales. But the bedrock of your business should be the repeat interaction from your long term customers. Ensure your business treats previous or current customers with the respect they deserve - staying in contact with them, finding ways to add more value for those who transact regularly and making sure their customer service experience is excellent.
It’s often said it’s much harder to acquire new customers than keep current ones, but many businesses fall into the trap of chasing the ‘new and shiny’ at the expense of those who’ve been there for years. Don’t be caught out by this common temptation and stay conscious of this risk when you go through big periods of growth.
Have a plan but keep an open mind to adapt it as needed
Scaling a business is a very complicated, challenging, exciting and interesting journey. We believe in the benefit a business plan can have on a scaling business, but it’s also wise to approach this rollercoaster with open ears and mind. As you progress through growing and evolving your business, be ready to make some course corrections along the way.
Chat to RightWay about your business challenges
Are you looking to scale your business? Our team has the skills and experience to help you navigate things better. Within our team we have many former successful business owners who’ve been there and done that. This along with our world class accounting and bookkeeping services, make RightWay a great partner to build your business with. Call 0800 555 024 or fill out our contact form - Better business = Better life!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and may not apply to the specific details of your business. For personalised and tailored advice, we recommend reaching out to our professional team. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date content on our website, RightWay assumes no responsibility for any business loss or damage that may arise from relying on the information provided.