Congratulations on launching your startup! Hopefully, you have survived the initial phase and your business has taken off successfully. Now, it is time to prepare for the next step which can make or break your business – the scaling phase.
Let’s immediately say that you shouldn’t rush since premature scaling is one of the major reasons for startup failures. But of course, this doesn’t mean that scaling is not possible. Scaling is definitely what you need to do but with great care.
It is all about being quick enough but not too quick at the same time. The scaling stage is the time when you should use all the key opportunities in order to acquire greater resources and greater revenue.
In order to prepare for starting this phase and do the scaling properly, you should learn about the strategies that have worked well for some businesses which are now big names in their respective industries.
Should you scale?
Before you actually start to scale your startup, it is crucial that you ask yourself whether you should scale in the first place. Is your business scalable at all?
You can have awesome products or services and your business might be booming, but does that mean that you are ready for a scale-up? Well, it might not be the case after all. You can be a small but successful company in any industry but that does not necessarily mean that you should invest in scaling.
Be honest with yourself and examine all the details. Is scaling going to cost you irrational amounts of resources? What if you can barely make it happen? What if the risk is too high?
Always bear in mind that there are a number of companies that prefer staying in the small business league. Why should a small family business try to scale up if it produces fantastic results?
Therefore, it is important to always be honest with yourself and be aware of your company’s capabilities. Sometimes it is better not to overreach because it can be extremely costly.
Have you heard the story of AWeber? This is an email marketing service which is well known in the marketing industry now. However, it started out as a small startup – on a limited budget and with limited assets.
Tom Kulzer, the mastermind behind the company did an awesome scaling job. In his case, scaling and growth didn’t include external investments. He didn’t want to depend on other investors or give any part of his company to someone who just had enough money to buy the way into something Tom put a lot of effort into.
So, instead of grabbing outside investments to solidify his business through new hires, better equipment, the company’s own colocation facility, office space, marketing department, and other important segments of growing a business, he took advantage of word-of-mouth marketing.
AWeber utilized the power of word-of-mouth marketing and leveraging introductions from their existing customer base. As the company’s representatives claim, the company keeps a huge affiliate reseller network. And it is through these networks that they can help out smaller businesses and remain well-connected to other businesses in the industry.
When you do something like that, you actually also help yourself, since other entrepreneurs will talk your tools they use and how successful they have become thanks to them. That is exactly how you can achieve growth easily – by getting direct word-of-mouth referrals. In this case, the effect of networking cannot be denied.
However, you should always remember one thing – you have to provide excellent service and make your customers happy if you want their experience to be positive.
Streamlining your processes
Making your business stable without you should be one of the top priorities. The processes should be simplified and streamlined to the extent that even if you disappeared for a month or two, someone could replace you and know exactly what to do.
That is why it is important that you explain to your employees everything that happens in the company. Each process should be understood and repeatable. You should leave nothing about your business so fragile that a less competent employee could mess it up.
When you are a startup, you have to build a strong infrastructure to ensure that you are constantly providing a positive experience for your customers. While building your company, you have to pay attention to everything that has shortcomings.
As soon as you spot that something is broken, you need to fix it. Know that your company is a system and in order for a system to work well without you, it has to be flawless.
As soon as things pick up the pace and start moving forward, you need to have streamlined processes for everything your company is planning to do. Also, remember that each process needs to contribute to the startup’s end goals.
Therefore, each process should be easy to understand. Moreover, outlining each step is a must. Ideally, you should take care of this before scaling. That way, you will have no trouble with on-boarding new employees and keeping every new action in line with your goals.
Identifying the core
Taking a business to the next level isn’t possible without identifying its core customers, products, and marketing channels. This should go without saying but many entrepreneurs are not really familiar with it.
A study found that a whopping 74% of startups failed miserably because they started scaling too early without knowing their core goals and values. Learn from their failures because this scary number shows just how important it is to know as much as you can about every single aspect of your business – no matter the industry.
You have probably heard of Neil Patel – a true business and marketing expert. He has made a small checklist that every entrepreneur should go through to make sure that they have a solid grasp of their ‘core’ before trying to scale-up.
Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:
- Who are your primary customers?
- Do you have a minimum viable product and have you achieved a product-market fit?
- What marketing channels will offer the best ROI?
- Can you acquire enough funding to make your business survive a period that will most likely be unprofitable?
You see, it is quite important to know all the details about your industry and your company’s capabilities. However, you should also be smart with future business predictions because they can determine whether you should or shouldn’t scale.
Read about the trends in your industry, educate yourself, and you will get a much clearer picture of what the future holds. Whenever you can, read a SaaS industry report, market reports, analyses, predictions. After all, it is crucial to know one thing – in business, numbers never lie.
Automation and outsourcing
If you have a startup that is labor-intensive, you may not be able to scale it effectively. That is another reason why you should start looking for ways to streamline your processes.
However, this also means that you should try to automate payroll and billing, create training videos to quickly get new employees up to speed, and simplify everything you can.
On the other hand, what you can’t automate, you should outsource. The biggest part of your resources needs to be allocated to making your core processes work impeccably. Hence, you should keep only the most essential roles in-house. Everything from design and copywriting all the way to legal issues and office cleaning should be given to external contractors and taken off your shoulders.
What you should not forget
To scale up means to have a stable system and people behind it working together and compactly to make the growth as seamless as possible.
Therefore, you need to figure out how to automate and outsource everything you can. Remain disciplined with your budget and do not spend on reinforcements or new features until you are truly ready for that.
Finally, make sure that the business is really scalable. If your product, service, work philosophy, or industry demands that you stay a small business, there is nothing wrong with that.