Rapid growth is what small business owners dream of, however, if the business is not properly prepared it can be a double edged sword.
Small businesses are often built on the deep commitment and passion of the start up team. These teams are deeply committed and intimately involved in all aspects of the business from setting the business strategy through to daily operations of the businesses. It is this passion and commitment that often makes these businesses successful, however, as the business grows, there are critical factors that need to be in place to ensure their future success.
IQuium Consulting has undertaken a recent project with a business at the growth pivot point where the business was facing the challenge of how to scale processes that weren't designed for volume. The process was designed around key people leveraging their skills, passion and commitment which was impossible to scale as the volume increased to a point where those people reached capacity. If not addressed this had the potential to be fatal for the business as they continued to grow, as they wouldn't be able to continue to deliver what their customers value.
The key lessons for the business included:
Understanding the business customer value proposition - the initial success of the business is often based on the value proposition that the business has created. It is important to understand that value proposition and communicate that across the team so that everyone in the business is just as committed to delivering on the CVP as the start up team are. It is also important to ensure that the key elements of what customers value is maintained as this is often as the heart of the what has made the business successful to start with.
Scalable robust processes - small businesses are often built with processes held together with sticky tape and key people. If the business has aspirations to grow it is important that they have robust processes which are not dependant on key people. The processes should also be documented with standard operating procedures so the customer experience is consistent irrespective of who completes the process.
Delegation and Trust - one to hardest things for small business leaders to do is let go. As the business grows it is not practical for them to be involved in every detail they were when the business started. There is a strong temptation to try and maintain that control and be part of every decision and the day to day operations of the business. If leaders don't trust their team to deliver they can strangle the business and prevent growth. However it is often their attention to detail and personal commitment that has made the business successful to start with. It is critical that leaders spend the time and effort to hire the right people, empower them to make decisions and run the business and put in place quality control measurement to ensure that standards are maintained.
Continuous improvement - for businesses in the growth phases, a continuous improvement culture is critical. The team need to feel empowered to make change and drive continuous improvement linked to what drives value for the customer.
If businesses in the rapid growth phase put in place these key learnings we have described above it will help them significantly as they navigate the challenges that rapid growth delivers.