By Daniel Wesley
Nothing stunts the growth of a young business quite like a lack of planning. When my company was in its early days, I often found myself unable to scale as quickly as I wanted to (despite talented employees and some great ideas) because I hadn't spent enough time charting a plan for the future.
While my own business eventually thrived, I was one of the lucky ones. Most businesses fail before taking off due to poor planning and implementation. Still, more companies remain stunted in their growth by a similar failure to think ahead.
Imagine a busy city road. When the city first built it, the city's planners had fewer cars and pedestrians to account for. Sitting in bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour traffic, you've probably directed some angry thoughts their way. However, when the city finally begins construction to expand the road, it causes an even bigger headache. Had the city originally anticipated the need for room to grow, you wouldn't be sitting there in the first place.
Failing to plan for growth is a great way to put a ceiling on your business's potential. The interference in productivity that accompanies employee additions and office expansions has made me rethink my growth plans on more than one occasion. But to raise revenue and hit targets, I needed more people to handle the workload. Spending money now to save time later is always wise because the better-equipped you are to adapt, the fewer opportunities will pass you by.
Don't let bad planning end your company's growth prematurely. Use these four tips to stay ahead of the market and be ready for whatever comes.
1. Be Every Employee
To understand your future needs, you must understand what your current employees do. Educate yourself on the roles of each staff member and learn their individual challenges. If you have 10 employees and only a vague idea of how each one contributes to the whole, schedule recurring one-on-one meetings to keep up with the evolution of each role as your business grows.
For me, taking an inventory of my employees meant giving up control of some tasks I did myself. It can be tempting to micromanage, but if you want to build a stronger workforce, delegate more tasks and give your employees chances to show what they can do.
2. Train Less, Do More
The last thing any business owner wants to do is spend days or weeks learning how to use software that's supposed to make life easier. If the seller takes a long time to describe what the software does and even longer to explain how to use it, you might be better served going with the option that doesn't require a doctorate to understand.
I've noticed that while our business can always make more money, it can never make up for lost time. Many software options are available to young companies for project management, financial reporting, and more, but time spent learning a tool is time that could usually be better spent pursuing the company's primary goals. Don't be change-averse, but recognize when a learning curve outweighs utility.
3. Outsource Specialized Skills
How much control you have over your business is your decision, but you must relinquish part of that control at some point or risk becoming a bottleneck for decisions.
If you need a service -- for instance, financial planning -- and don't have someone on staff trained in it, don't try to learn a new skill overnight and put one more thing on your plate. Look outward for resources that could help you. We have our accounting service provide financial reporting because it helps to have someone who specializes in the numbers and taxes reviewing our books.
4. Don't Activate Autopilot
Just because your business is doing well now doesn't mean it can't improve. Complacency has been the death of many promising companies, and failure to create new opportunities for growth leaves you open to getting run down by scrappy competition.
It's easy to miss great opportunities because you aren't prepared to take advantage of them. I maintain a savings account specifically for cases of unexpected revenue drops or unplanned expenses. These aren't always bad: for instance, I once dipped into this fund because a prime opportunity to advertise in a major publication appeared, and I had not taken that possibility into account when I planned for that quarter. Be prepared at all times for growth opportunities because you won't always see those opportunities coming.
Know your business inside and out, value your time, and always be ready to take a chance on a big opportunity. Growth doesn't have to be a struggle; you just have to set the stage first.
Daniel Wesley founded Quote.com to provide consumers with auto insurance quotes from leading carriers. His work has been featured in Forbes, Mashable, Inc., and Fox Small Business.