As an entrepreneur, you can encounter growth spurts that seem wrought with barriers you don’t know how to overcome. If you expand too quickly without the proper infrastructure, you’ll encounter challenges. At the same time, if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone to take expansion risks then you might never grow your business to its true, scalable potential.
There are several things you can do now before you’re big that will help you to manage your growing pains later.
1. Start scaling up now. Before you even get to the growth stage, start with scalability in mind from the onset. Scalability has many facets beyond a warehouse big enough to store your supplies or a server large enough for your online traffic. Think now about your internal systems for scalable success. Get the software and systems you’ll need to stay effective at a large size so when the spurt happens, you have a plan and the systems to handle it. Invest in software and other tools such as internal training, hiring and financial practices that you’ll need to make this possible down the line. Think big from the start and make sure when the growing pains start, you’re more nimble and prepared to respond.
Scaling is important because it makes for a scenario that’s even more efficient than just growth. If you’re only thinking of growing, you might add a new client, but then you’d have to add resources to care for that client. With scaling you’re leveraging systems to add more ways to generate income without needing a direct input of resources to handle them.
Expedia.com has always offered online travel accomidation booking for individuals. What made it grow exponentially is that the systems were in place to handle more clients without needing to add more staff, like a traditional travel agency would have needed. One travel agent can only handle so many clients at a time, but with Expedia.com’s online booking system, the scalability is there to handle thousands or hundreds of thousands of bookings at a time.
2. Keep on learning. School does not end for entrepreneurs. Whether you went to college or not, you need to educate yourself every single day. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of getting so into their niche, or working so hard inside their business, they stop looking around. This is a huge mistake and will end up catching you unprepared or unaware when a growth opportunity comes around.
Every day, you have to get up and find out what’s going on in your industry and niche. Then you need to look at the world at large and see what’s out there: market conditions, global happenings, trade papers and research reports. It should all be important to you as you continue to educate yourself. Always be improving your skills, and don’t forget your team! Increase their aptitudes through training and learning to have a staff that knows what’s happening and has the best tools and skills for the whole group’s success. Listen to and invest in them.
Consider this advice from billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of Virgin. On his blog, he writes, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to.” He says that if you treat your staff well, they’ll treat your customers well. That’s good business.
If you stop learning and educating yourself and your team, you’ll have huge problems busting through those growing pains.
3. Trust your gut and believe in yourself. Finally, never forget what got you started in your business: your entrepreneurial dream. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to make lots of gut instinct decisions every day because you’re forging into new territory every day. Often you won’t have past experience for growth expansion to rely on, so it’s important to believe in yourself.
Trust yourself and believe in your good judgment for when to seize opportunities and grow.