As an early-stage entrepreneur, your eyes are always on the horizon, seeking out growth opportunities wherever they come. You have launched and got your business off the ground, BUT now it’s time to figure out how to grow it.
Growth is good, but growth isn’t always sustainable. That’s why we’re talking about scaling—growth that is deliberate, long term, and fully in your control.
To scale sustainably means going in with a plan and being prepared to handle any challenge that’s thrown your way. It’s the difference between getting a sudden spike in sales and every process falling apart, and getting a sudden spike in sales and handling every order smoothly with great customer service to boot.
It takes planning, expertise, and sometimes funding to get it done. We’ll walk you through how to craft an iron-clad plan for your future.
You should only take your business to the next step if you’re truly ready! Scaling up means your company is going to take more time, resources, and expertise. Scaling up is an exciting time, but you’ll need a level head to get it done in a way that’s sustainable for your business.
- Are you ready to take on more strategic challenges? That could mean expanding your product lines or selling globally.
- Will you be able to dedicate more time to your business without other parts of your life suffering?
- Do you have the financial resources available that you’ll need?
- Do you need outside help? You may be at a point where having someone else handle marketing or customer service would make your day easier.
- Do you need more employees to get the work done? Struggling to make your business work with your current team—which might be a mighty team of one!—is a great sign that it’s time to scale up.
- Are you having trouble keeping up with orders? Having a higher volume than your business is prepared to handle means falling behind on packaging and deliveries, customer service gaps, and a whole lot of stress for you.
- Are you falling behind on inventory? If you’re constantly finding yourself sold out, with customers clamoring for restocks, it’s definitely time to scale up.
Lastly, some businesses are meant to be small businesses. It’s OK if you want your side hustle to remain a side hustle. It all comes down to your personal priorities, lifestyle, and financial situation.
There’s no one formula for scaling a business, because every business—and founder—has unique strengths and challenges. Scaling up a clothing business, for example, is going to look different from scaling up a skin care empire. But there are some common threads to consider:
1. Make a plan for your future
If your company started as a hobby, you may have just been going with the flow up until this point.
However, to scale sustainably, you need a business plan. It will not only help you understand your business, but it will be something you’ll need to show if you ever seek out outside investment.
There are different ways to format a business plan, but a basic one should include:
- Executive summary
- Company description
- Market analysis
- Management and organization
- Products and services
- Customer segmentation
- Marketing plan
- Logistics and operations plan
- Financial plan
In particular, you’ll be creating a strategic marketing plan, with a forecast for the future outlining your plans for growth. What’s a realistic revenue goal for a year from now? What about five years from now? What’s your plan for increasing your marketing capacity?
Nail down where your business is right now, as well as where you want your business to go. Use the resources below to get started and consider the next steps in scaling as you create your plan.
2. Evaluate your supply chain
Scaling up means a higher volume of sales and your supply chain needs to be equipped to handle that. What works right now might not work as well at scale.
3. Hire strategically
Scaling up means you may no longer be able to do everything yourself, or with whoever you’ve recruited so far to make your business work.
If hiring is part of your scaling strategy, you should hire where an extra person would be most effective. Employees are a major financial commitment, so they should be focus on an area that will bring in the most return.
4. Outsource for efficiency
If it doesn’t make sense to hire your own employee, there are ways to outsource tasks to streamline your business as you scale.
Whether hiring an agency or an employee, you should consider where you most need help. If you’re struggling with marketing a small business, it’s only going to get more challenging as you scale up. Decide what aspects of your business would benefit from expertise you don’t have and look into third-party services that can help you out.
5. Automate where you can
Getting things done faster or more efficiently at scale can be made easier with tools designed to automate your workflow.
Another example for streamlining customer service is using Shopify Inbox for communicating with customers. This tool allows you to utilize live chat—which we know is a fantastic way to increase conversions—in a way that keeps all your conversations in one place, allows for saved responses, and gives you metrics so you can track impact.
Check out these handy bots to learn more about how to automate your business.
6. Seek new capital
Scaling costs money, and you might need to identify the right time to seek outside investment to see your plans through and keep your cash flow flowing.
That timing is crucial. Capital is something you want to secure before you act on plans to grow, rather than when your business takes off and you’re left scrambling for the funds to support it.