Most small-business owners want to be the next Uber. That’s not to say they hope to be the next big car-sharing service. What they’re really looking for is more akin to world domination within three or four years. What they don’t know is that fast growth can just as easily be the end of their business.
Take the Cinderella teams you’re going root for during March Madness, for example. Just like some startups, these teams come out of nowhere and turn everyone's brackets upside down. But before you place your bets on a 16 seed going all the way, try to remember the last time a mid-level conference David took down a Goliath in the Final Four. Moreover, when was the last time a Cinderella team made a repeat showing at the Big Dance?
For every Gonzaga, there are a hundred Bucknells. And for every Uber, there are a hundred Ridejoys. (Don’t remember Ridejoy? Read Gigaom's take on its downfall.)
The kicker: those Cinderella teams – in basketball and in business – don’t know they’re going to be Cinderella teams. That can happen to you, too, so let’s look at some ways your business can survive and sustain fast growth.
Assume Your Small Business Will Be Big Some Day
The small schools that upset higher seeds usually get a lot of media attention and increased enrollment. The same can be true for the hot new startup, only instead of students, it may see more customers than ever before.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a problem, but it can be if you’re not ready to handle the increase. As Money Crashers explains, unexpected growth can make it hard to maintain the quality of service you provided in the past.
The takeaway: The author of “How to Scale a Business: 4 Growth Tips from Actual Experience” advises you to be proactive rather than reactive. Assume growth is going to happen, and ask yourself…
- Do I have sufficient product to meet increased demand?
- How can I make operations more efficient?
- Do I have enough employees to service more customers?
- What financing options do I have for funding growth?
Don’t wait for customers to start pouring in to think about how you’re going to scale your business.
Get Help for Your Small Business
After an unexpected run at the Final Four, a head coach can be pulled in a hundred directions. The increased attention often means additional responsibilities, such as handling media requests and fielding endorsement offers, which need to be balanced with their usual obligations of coaching, planning, and recruiting.
As a small-business owner, you already know how it feels to have a very full plate, but sudden growth can add to your responsibilities exponentially. When that happens, it’s easy for some tasks, even important ones, to fall through the cracks.
The takeaway: Hire talent and delegate some responsibilities. For example, you might be able to delegate…
- Travel arrangements.
- Social media marketing.
- Web development.
- Lead generation.
- Data entry.
Not quite ready to hire new employees? Freelancers can handle many of these tasks. The time you save may more than compensate you for the money you spend on an independent contractor.
Remember, too, that fast growth may also mean it’s time to review your small-business insurance policies. Talk to your agent to see if your surge in clientele has increased your exposures.