Your startup small business is booming. Every entrepreneur’s dream, right? Not always.
Scaling up your small business can come with growing pains you never expected. Not every venture is built to support big business, but you shouldn’t rule it out if your services are in demand. While expansion can be daunting, here are a few ideas that will help reduce stress levels as you increase profits.
7 Ways to Scale Your Small Business
Know when to grow
Research your market to make sure there is room to expand. Have you perfected your product or service? Gauge interest from your target audience and make sure you can continue to manage a solid balance between growth and profitability.
Money, money, money
Can your business generate interest from the venture capital crowd? If your company can double revenue every year for the next few years, consider pitching your company to a venture capital firm. Growing at a slightly slower pace? Try a loan or personally put equity into the company.
Understanding your cash flow is critical during a growth period. You’ll always need to make payroll, so get a good sense of how money comes into and flows out of the company so you can ensure your employees are compensated without any hiccups.
Growing your small business means you and your staff will have a lot on your plate. Put as much on autopilot as you can. Payroll, social media posts, and billing can all be automated. Train new hires frequently? Think about putting together a video or comprehensive packet that allows new employees to learn things on their own. While this step will take some effort to put into place, the time saved down the road will be invaluable.
In order to scale up, it’s imperative to have the right team in place. Your staffers will need to wear many hats and have superior problem solving skills in your field. Realize that every business is competing for the top people—everybody wants talented, innovative, hard-working people, so be prepared to fight for the best workers, they get a lot of offers. Tread carefully in this area, as poor or mediocre hires will cost money and time. You may have to let go of some employees who have been with the company for years but don’t have the skillset to grow with the business.
In-house vs. outsourcing
Be selective when it comes to what tasks should be kept within the company and which should be given to an outside firm. Do you update your website frequently enough to require an in-house designer? Do you push out enough social media content to require an SEO specialist on staff? It’s a wise idea to outsource some of these tasks, at least initially. If you wind up paying a freelancer more than a regular staffer, then you could consider bringing someone on board full-time.
The cost savings of outsourcing can be tremendous. You won’t have to offer freelancers profit sharing, free lunches, health insurance, or retirement benefits, and, generally, freelancers exchange these benefits for flexible schedules and the ability to select their projects. And if, by chance, you hit a rough patch, you can easily downsize your payroll without as many repercussions.
In addition to building yourself up as a thought leader, you need to consider your marketing strategy. Direct marketing—reaching customers by email, phone, websites, or promotional letters—is costly and, quite frankly, behind the times. Also, while everyone aspires to gather clients by word-of-mouth referrals, that method is unreliable.
Many startups and B2B companies are now relying heavily on content marketing—creating and curating valuable content with the intention of influencing consumer behavior. Companies are increasingly hiring content specialists to write blogs, shoot videos, or compose social media posts that prove helpful to clients and potential customers. The difference? Content marketing’s purpose is to inform, not to sell. While the content may reside on your website or social media channel, it doesn’t push viewers into making a purchase. It does, however, create a brand awareness and can be very influential.
Unlike direct marketing, which is often seasonal or promotes a short-term marketing campaign, content marketing can be built to last, allowing your company to repurpose content several times and getting more bang out of your advertising budget.
Build your brand
You didn’t build your business overnight, so don’t expect your customers to discover you all at once either. As you scale up, you need to get your name out there as an expert in your field. You can use social media, blog posts, e-books, or YouTube videos to relay information about your specialty or give advice. Your audience may start out small, but if you provide your audience with truly useful information, they’ll follow you and may eventually become clients.
Your branding can go beyond the digital realm as well. Speaking engagements and panel discussions are great ways to get in front of an audience of your peers. Pitch yourself to journalists as an expert in your area. It’s a great way to get your name out there in print, which could throw business your way.