A Lifestyle Business or an Industry Player?

You’re moving along, making some sales, bringing in some revenue, and hiring some staff to help you manage your growing business. Sound familiar? It’s the normal course of action for all businesses in the first few years. The critical decisions are now upon you. Do you keep satisfying your customers and adding a few more as you go to sustain a nice lifestyle business that you’ve built? Or do you take the other route and scale your business for rapid growth to become a serious player in your industry?

I was an operating partner in four start-ups in the 1980s and ’90s. Two were successful and two tanked. I have been coaching entrepreneurs and small businesses for the past decade. You know when you have developed a successful product or service formula. You provide a needed service, people will pay for it, and you retain their business because you deliver more than you promise and deliver it with consistency and dependability.

Now what do you do? Do you want to put processes in place to replicate your successful formula for growth, or are you happy with just making a good living with some customers and a few employees? Both are great decisions. You have to dig deep and see which is right for you.

If you choose rapid growth, then many elements must fall into place: The right team, market timing, product demand, vertical markets, consistent quality delivery and several other factors will impact your success. I believe one of your most critical factors in scaling your business is your processes.

You can’t grow and have Mini-Me employees replicating what you’ve been able to create without processes in place. You can’t hold each person’s hand, and you can’t do the work for them. You must create formulas and processes that your new team members can learn, implement and execute with ease. No matter how much talent people possess, if there is not an easy step-by-step process for them to follow, they will struggle. It doesn’t matter if it is in sales, operations, service/product delivery, customer service, accounting or some other aspect of your business.

Each area must be well-defined. You’ve been successful working by the seat of your pants with just a handful of people; but if you are going to scale and grow the business, that’s another animal. You hear that businesses fail because they don’t have enough cash to grow or they hire the wrong people. The truth is that there are many funding and financing options available to companies that have developed a successful service or product. You can “hire slow and fire fast” to get the right team around you. The underlying main reason companies fail to scale is a lack of processes in place. If easy internal systems to follow have not been put into place, then chaos will come. You can’t move forward without consistent processes and steps in place that people can replicate for your customers.

One of the most important processes a business lives or dies on is its customer relationship management (CRM) system. That’s what controls your hunting for new customers and farming your existing customers to keep them happy and sell them more services. Most entrepreneurs start out by just doing spreadsheets to keep track of where they are in the sales cycle for closing new business. Once you get to a certain size, or if you want to scale the business, you have to implement a CRM system that ties all of your customer touches into one organized platform.

Sales automation is another term used in describing what you want the CRM platform to do. Companies that sell business to business need a good sales automation system. Why? Because their sales cycles tend to be longer and more complex, so they must have elements in place to develop customer experiences. Finding and implementing the right CRM system for your business is a topic for another day.

The key is to establish your step-by-step processes, write them down, and have your team improve upon them. The brain of the business is the creativity and planning involved in developing and growing a business. The heart of the business is the processes and procedures involved in keeping the business pumping and in replicating the successful formulas that have been established.

Following processes gets things done and keeps all elements working in harmony toward the team’s common goals. You can’t grow sales, people and profits without these processes in place for successful expansion.

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Jim Bowie

Jim Bowie

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