Turning an idea into a business is what makes you an entrepreneur. Scaling your business is what makes you a successful entrepreneur.
What is scaling?
Scaling is the act of increasing a business’ revenue and output without significant investments. Instead of spending more money and more resources, your business will scale through better processes and the use of technology to reach and serve larger audiences. Scaling allows you to increase your customer base without adding resources, thereby increasing your profit margins with every sale.
Airbnb is a great example of a scalable business. The resources and investments are largely made by the partners who are hosting guests. Airbnb just provides a platform on which hosts will be able to find and interact with guests, scaling revenue without increasing costs.
How is scaling different from growing?
Typically, growing a business refers to bringing in money to purchase assets and hire people. When it comes to growth, you invest first and reap the rewards later. Scaling however, allows you to be lean and make more efficient profits.
Some classic examples of top tier businesses that scaled on the basis of their products and services are google, Facebook and Microsoft. Software as a service (SaaS) is the poster child of a scalable product that doesn’t need intensive support from investors.
Thanks to their SaaS business models, these modern day tech giants are able to sell their products without limitations and manage to grow several times their size in a relatively short span of time. Of course, there are costs associated with supporting the businesses, but with each bug fix and new feature that is introduced, their entire customer base gains added value and the product becomes more stable for existing customers and new customers alike.
Assess the scalability of your business
You’ll need to ask yourself a few important questions
● What kind of support do I need to provide to my customers?
One of the inevitable costs of running a business are disruptions in the form of customer complaints. Even the most bulletproof products require some form of routine customer service. If your customer service costs increase dramatically with incremental sales, you may need to work on your product or service to reduce defects before you can scale your business.
● Do you have people you can delegate to?
Having the right crew to work can make or break an effort to scale your business. Scaling your business can mean that certain roles within the organization become obsolete. The people who work for you must be able to adapt to change and scale along with the business.
● What are the bottlenecks in your organization?
In most businesses, scaling can be difficult because the flow of operations is not smooth. A bottleneck could be a process, person or something to do with the core product/service. Identifying and addressing these bottlenecks is crucial to scaling your business.
Scaling your startup
Now that we understand the concept of scaling, let’s talk about how to scale your business. There are a few tips and tricks to bring scalability into almost any kind of business.
1. Set the pace and maintain it.
Set down achievable timelines for objectives and ensure that they are met. Scaling a business is a process that requires a quick witted, decisive approach. Don’t slow yourself down while picking the perfect colour for your website, or for that one line of marketing text that you hope will change a customer’s outlook. What you need to focus on is the core activity of your business and providing real value to your customers.
2. Rely on automation, technology and outsourcing.
Mundane, repetitive tasks are dead weight that will kill the productivity of your team. Using automation and technology, you can lighten the burden of your employees and free up their time to do more useful work. Transferring paperwork to computerized methods is credited with boosting productivity across the globe. Information is safer, more searchable and easy to transfer.
The tasks that are not core to your team should be eliminated either through automation or outsourcing. Otherwise, they could be adversely affecting core functions like approval cycles and proposals. Choose the right tools for your team and invest some time in training them to use these tools effectively.
3. Delegate more.
You can’t do everything by yourself and you shouldn’t be micromanaging your team. Even if it means risking a few mistakes, it is crucial to delegate both tasks and responsibilities to your team. Not only does this free you up to do other important things, it also gives them a chance to grow and take ownership of their respective domains. Delegating also gives you the chance to see a top-down view of your organization to find out where there is room for improvement.
4. Hire for the long-term and review strongly
It is crucial to have a core team that can scale along with your business. Hire people who are a good fit for you now, and for you in the future as you work towards your vision. Without a few people who have spent a significant amount of time in the company, you may not be able to delegate or maintain smooth operations in the long-term
However, while it is important to stick with people, not everyone is meant for your business. Make sure you have a strong review system to identify the resources that show initiative and promise. This has the added benefit of promoting a company culture where people are expected to take ownership and are rewarded for completing their objectives.
5. Don’t neglect your marketing
Even if you cannot spend time on it yourself, delegate the job of marketing your business to someone. While you work on creating a scalable architecture that can cater to more customers, you still need customers to find you and trust you to deliver a quality product. This means having a functioning website, an active digital marketing approach on social media, branding and advertising.
Outsourcing is a popular approach to solving the marketing problem for startups. A marketing agency provides quality and knowledge without taking up too much of your time, whereas an in-house team gives greater control over your branding and content but requires you to be more involved.
6. Find ways to expand your customer base
Building a range of flexible pricing options will help you tap into markets you hadn’t thought of before. Whether it is a monthly plan, or a one-time subscription or an event-specific plan, catering to all kinds of customers will not only strengthen your business model. If you’ve got the right kind of product-market approach, no customer is too small and no order is unserviceable.
7. Learn to understand your business through data
As the size of your organization grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what is going on across departments. Creating a system of reporting data will reduce the amount of information you will need to process, keeping you focused only on what matters. Try to have a standard review with all your senior staff once every week or 2 weeks where they present their reports, also giving them a platform for escalation.
By scaling your business, you will boost your profits and create a more efficient organization. This makes your business more attractive to investors if you are looking for funding to grow or expand. While growing and scaling largely aim for the same objective, scaling is something that you can achieve by making a series of small changes to product and process without having to introduce large amounts of capital.