Taking your start up to the next step: how to professionalise your business to support future growth
Decisions in the early days are often made intuitively, but when hard work and dedication is rewarded by growth, you need to start thinking about scaling your business. The difference between five people in a shared workspace and a 50-person company is marked; if you don’t change the way things are done across the board, be it new business to invoicing, you’ll run into trouble.
From launch, through to early trading and beyond, the way in which a company manages its systems, structures and decision-making process are just as, if not more, important than its customer facing activity. Failure to deliver on the former rarely enables the business to achieve its potential, and invariably, creates big challenges.
This article takes you through some of the key things you need to consider to make the next phase of your company’s story a success.
Systems and processes
As a five- or 10-person company, many of the processes are just the way things have always been done; there’s been no planning or rigour. As you grow, this just can’t continue. You’ll need more sophisticated IT infrastructure and software, more detailed accounting and generally more robust ways of making decisions.
Make sure you have the right people in the right roles
A significant change any company has to undergo during its growth journey is the process of moving from a founder-led business, where one or two individuals oversee almost all aspects of the company, to one which has departmental expertise, enabling the founders to step back from day-to-day operations and focus on delivery of the strategy. You will need to think about whether the existing structure can support your current and future growth. Is this the time to create separate departments or teams covering finance, human resources, legal, marketing and so on?
The founders and leadership are the ones with the vision, but it’s not sustainable for all the decision making to sit with them. If you don’t bring in specialists (or seek outsourced help), your time will be spent doing things that at best you’re just not that good at, or at worst, you make mistakes that have a negative impact on the business. It can be tough to do, but it’s the only way to help your company to thrive.
Invest in training
With more people on board, it’s vital that they stay on top of their game, so paying for professional development across your team is key if you want them to continue to add value.
Critically, if people feel their employer is investing in their future, they’ll be less likely to look to move to another role; recruiting is expensive and a significant time drain on growing businesses.
Don’t lose sight of company culture
Many people choose to work for a smaller business because they like the culture and sense of belonging which is sometimes more often found in SMEs than large multi-national companies. As a business grows, it can be hard to avoid a more corporate feel, but staying true to the values of the business no matter how large you grow, can go a long way to avoiding that pitfall. Make sure you conduct regular employee surveys to understand what resonates with the team and what hasn’t worked.
Empower the team
As you grow, there are going to be new and different challenges to overcome. The best way is to give the team on the ground the license to solve these as they go about their day. If you’ve got your hiring strategy working, you’ll have the right people in role to deliver this kind of behaviour, and it’s critical to bigger successes.
Always look ahead
It sounds obvious, but if you fail to plan for next year, not just next week, you’ll come unstuck pretty quickly. Omitting to consider what growth could mean for your existing and prospective customers, your supply chain or your property needs, could quickly result in things going wrong, and quickly.
Learn to make mistakes, and move on
As a small business, you’ll be used to things not going quite to plan, and this is exactly the same when you’re in scale-up mode. What might look like a flawless plan on paper sometimes doesn’t translate into the profit centre you’d anticipated. Don’t dwell on it; take on board the learnings, move on and try the next thing. You’re one step closer to the knockout idea.
As you grow, thinking about your office and any warehousing requirements is key. What happens if you suddenly add 10 people to your headcount and you don’t have enough desks? Or your stock has nowhere to be stored? Consider shorter leases, for example three years, to give the flexibility you need to accommodate your growth.
Mileway is here to help
With almost 700 commercial properties across the cities in the UK, and more than 1,800 across Europe, Mileway helps businesses find the space they needs at every stage of growth. If you’d like to talk with one of our local experts or enquire about availability, please contact us here. We’re always happy to help.