Scale for Sustainable Business Growth
- by Tanya Thompson
- Mar 11, 2019
- Updated Mar 13, 2019
- 7 min read
As we all know, it's easy to start a business. The hard part is gaining enough customers so that you obtain a profit, and then ultimately grow the business. For true success, entrepreneurs need to build their companies to scale so that they can achieve sustainable business growth.
What does that mean? We can all agree that growth is necessary in order for a business to survive. However, if the company grows too quickly, it could easily overwhelm everyone in the organisation to such an extent that they quit, and the company collapses. Alternatively, let's consider what happens if organisational growth occurs too slowly. Forced closure could result because the business was unable to sustain itself. As such, businesses need to build strong foundations that they can use to sustain themselves as they grow and expand.
You need to forget the unrealistic view of the start-ups you see in the movies. Remember, your idea means practically nothing. It's how you execute that matters most, and that's why many companies sell the same products as their competitors. Failure to have expectations that are more realistic will result in your company crashing and burning.
Create a strong foundation for your business
So, what are some of the things you need to consider in order to build your company to scale? Let me provide you some insights I've picked up over the years.
Achieve product excellence
Develop your product and/or service and get it right. However, "don't let the perfection get in the way of progress". You want to aim for excellence not perfection. Proactively engage with your customers to clarify what they actually need and want. Define what a quality business product or service means for you company. Identify the flaws you'll consider acceptable. Once you've a clear picture, you can then move ahead by optimising your product and/or service offerings. Follow up thereafter with ongoing tests to ensure that you never neglect the quality of your product or service.
Simplify the business
Always look for new ways to streamline business tasks. Challenge you and your team to save time and/or money with more added-value tasks. There are so many ways you achieve this accomplishment. Also, remember the adage that "you can't be all things to all people". Bearing that in mind, should you limit the number of products or services you offer? Would it make sense for you to reduce the number of features or options available for a product? No matter what approach you take, focus on making life easier for yourself. Trimming the fat will allow your company to focus on providing your offerings to a high quality standard. This is likely to be more appealing to your customers, giving you the edge you need to be competitive.
Invest in technology
There are many ways for companies to use technology to aid in simplifying business activities, thereby enhancing product and/or service quality. So, leveraging technology has become imperative for all businesses be they large or small.
On one front, you'll have to consider the workforce. Staff will expect access to cloud-based tools. You'll have staff who'll need to work on the go, from wherever they are in the world. Fortunately, there are many cloud-based options out there. Let's consider a few. There are cloud-based systems to record your financial records; manage your supply chain; manage customer relationships; share and edit company information; make and receive calls; and connect with customers around the world. Using the right technology could help your staff to be more productive, without you needing to hire more human resources.
Aim for excellence not perfection
More importantly, you can differentiate your business (e.g., by disrupting the market) through automation. Furthermore, if you foster innovation, embrace simplification, and invest in the right technology, as you grow, you will undoubtedly outperform your competitors.
Failure to adopt and adapt will leave your business in the lurch while others leap ahead to undeniable success. Key areas to consider include: the use of big data; machine learning; artificial intelligence; blockchain; internet of things; nanotechnology; drones; robotics; and virtual and augmented reality. Let's reflect on the success of the following companies in their use of machine learning: Spotify and Airbnb. Spotify differentiated itself from the likes of Apple Music by introducing the concept of personalised playlists centred on the listening patterns of users. Airbnb uses machine learning techniques for various reasons (e.g., to propose listing prices, decipher guest preferences, and rank listings).
Rely on the Experts
On recognising that you're finally becoming a viable business, apply more effort to stabilise your business using additional human resources. You should definitely move in that direction when you have sufficient money to cover your various cash demands. If you've sufficient funding, you can begin prior to then, or at least when you first break even.
Typically, at this stage, your company will be small with only the business owners and perhaps a few more employees. The founders will undoubtedly be doing all the important tasks and practically everything else. They'll also be supervising any subordinates.
Achieve rapid and sustainable business growth without putting your business at risk
You'll need to bring in some experts so that the company relies less on the business owners. For example, you could introduce roles like a Deputy CEO, persons with financial and sales proficiency, and partners with specialist skills. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Start-ups are never secure until there are sufficient employees in place that the business can rely on to make major decisions independently. There shouldn't be a constant need for direction from the owners. With more experts in place, owners can focus more on business growth and shape the culture of their companies as needed. The aim should be to reach a size that will comfortably keep the businesses stable and profitable. Start-ups are never secure until they reach this stage.
Shape the Culture
You can start to shape the culture of your organisation from the onset by creating its Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP). An MTP is a highly aspirational tagline that drives the company on a day-to-day basis in its effort to improve the world we live in. Do not let profit be its motivation.
Do you need a few examples? Here goes. SpaceX aims to revolutionise space technology and enable people to live on other planets. Google wants to organise the world's information. Sluamor aspires to help businesses find the business partners they need.
A strong MTP will help you to engage customers. It will also help you to attract and retain the talent you need with the right mindset and skillsets.
Think Exponential Growth
In doing all of the above, you'll be working to create a strong foundation for your business. You'll want a great product, straightforward business activities, and a solid workforce with the conviction you want to grow and sustain your company.
Developing this groundwork can take a number of years, so you'll need to have a lot of patience to persevere. However, always remember that the average business is normally in existence for 8 to 10 years before it shoots up. It's only in exceptional cases that there's significant business growth within the first 4 years, and often only then if the idea is great.
Of course, you want exponential growth, but only when you're ready with a sustainable business model fuelled by the right technology and talent. So, don't fall to the temptation to push sales growth too quickly. Your staff will become overworked, and therefore will start to cut corners to meet customer demand. Thereafter, your failure to deliver a quality product or service consistently will ultimately guarantee that the business will lose customers in little to no time. However, when you're actually ready, you'll be bound to realise business growth unbelievably quickly, with the resources needed to keep up with your customers and stay abreast of your competitors.
Ultimately, you want to able to achieve rapid and sustainable business growth without putting your business at risk.
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