25 Apr Biz is Growing! Help! I Need to Scale Things! Part 3
Growth & Scalability
I have a new client today! What an exciting statement for the small business owner, one which makes me happy every time I hear it. This article is the final part of a three-part series of how to plan for and manage the expenses that come with a growing business. So, you got that potential prospect to sign the contract that you were hoping for and it is now time to implement impactful and business-changing results for your new client. Scalability is an ongoing issue for many ambitious business owners…having the right people, processes, and product to get the job done and make it repeatable is a challenge that impacts us all. In a service-based business, this scalability issue takes a little different spin than it does in a product-based environment.
Let’s talk about the nuances of growth and scalability in a service-based environment like attorneys, health care professionals, technology, and professional services firms. Business growth issues show up differently here, where the amount of work often measures capacity you or your staff can fulfill. Here are some tell-tale signs that your current service-based business is running at too high a capacity:
- Your workload or your staff’s workload is overwhelming
- You have dissatisfied/resigning key staff members that don’t cite pay or job responsibility as the reason for their dissatisfaction
- You are missing important client deadlines for deliverables
- Mistakes are being made-either through process inconsistencies or volume deliverables
If you see some of these issues popping up in your business, it might be time to review capacity in the sense of three distinct areas: People, Process, and Technology.
People, Process, and Technology
“People” is often the first thing small business owners look at when it comes to overwhelming growth. I believe that most people come to the work environment with every positive intention of doing a good job. However, most often, when the people are not executing the deliverables you anticipated, there was likely a problem with the assignment description being appropriate and specific enough or the individual did not have the skills or technology to complete the job with accuracy. It is least likely that the individual failed to execute due to negligence, laziness or because they have a vendetta out against you. So, if your hiring instinct was that the person in question has both honesty and integrity, then is it a possibility that they did not have the right tools or talent to execute the job? Often, having the right process and technology set up for the success of your employee and for yourself are critical to supporting your business through a period of strong growth. Often, the business owner themselves is the bottleneck in the business. In small business, we wear many hats and it is hard to be a renaissance person who properly knows how to do everything they are required to do to be successful. If you find yourself in this situation, it is time to call in some third-party help by way of family and friends who know you and love you…they can quickly tell you what your greatest strengths and weaknesses are. The things that they identify are invaluable resources to the success of your business because it helps you position yourself to walk away from the things that are your weakness and allows you to let your light shine in areas where you excel.
Process is likely the biggest source of problem for a rapidly growing business. When the biz is on a fast upswing, nobody has time to establish and document a process of repeatability. However, this process of repeatability is the one thing that can continue to help your business sustain growth. As business picks up, we need more resources to complete the job. If proper processes are identified, then we will have the ability to determine what tasks are more high level, which tasks are assigned at a lower level, and which have the highest volume attached so that you can return to the “people” role and get the right person in the right job at the right pay grade. Even though documenting process can be some of the most tedious work in the business, it is one of the things that can really set our businesses up for success.
Last, technology is a huge issue for the growing service-based business. Technology is truly amazing. I was thinking of my own career and timeline and how technology has changed it. When I started in business, I used to stand at a phone booth that I found in hotel lobbies for hours and “check voicemail”. It was satisfying work! I felt like I was accomplishing stuff by listening to long-winded messages and forwarding them to my boss so that he make his own list of important decisions. Now, I have a team of people asking me to make those important decisions. The process has not changed but the technology has. I often spend time researching apps that can identify a faster, easier, more efficient process for the work my team is doing. Bookkeeping has moved to the cloud and artificial intelligence has allowed us the ability to leverage repeatability by making data entry easier, faster, and more accurate than it has ever been in the past. That said, such strides are being made in all industries across all levels. Technology comes with many different price tags, some very inexpensive, some outright outrageously priced. However, the tech-savvy business owner has an opportunity to choose the path of growth and efficiency that will support the goals of the business. Is there technology available to reduce or eliminate a scalability issue that your business has? If so, what is the return on investment? Will it take years or days to lower the cost of doing business?
This all comes back to understanding your numbers. If your business is experiencing a period of intense growth, what people, process, or technology can you change to help you be less stressed and overburdened while improving your profitability? I often find these answers in my application of Profit First concepts. It is here that I can separate the forest from the trees and act as an objective and detached third party to assess the business. If you, too, are struggling with issues of growth and capacity in your service-based business, give us a call and see if we can help…