Building a business is a brutal undertaking. With a 90% failure rate for startups in the United States, you have to be a mix of crazy and overly optimistic. The rewards for those who hit it out of the park with their unique idea or concept are tremendous: independence, unlimited opportunity and the ability to become an influencer in your community are just some of the things that await successful entrepreneurs.
But how do you cross the threshold into becoming a success story, as opposed to just another small business statistic? The answer: scale effectively.
1. Hold True to Your Core Principles and Values
I've had the opportunity to create a company from thin air. It's brutal, but the process teaches you about yourself and what you are capable of. Along the way, your company will begin to embody your values. For me, I'm a people pleaser; it's in my DNA. My company gained a foothold because we took care of our customers, no matter what.
There were contracts where we lost money. It happens to the best of us. But our ability to remain positive, ensure absolute customer satisfaction and react quickly to bumps in the road earned us a reputation as a problem solver.
When scaling a business, it's tempting to raise prices and overhaul customer policies in order to increase margins. Unfortunately, you'll find yourself turning into your bureaucratic competitors, whose customers you originally stole away.
As Kevin O'Leary would say, "Stop the madness!" Stay true to your brand. Focus on the things that your customers love and you'll find that scaling is possible without changing the core values of your organization.
2. Encourage as Much Feedback as Possible
Feedback is one of the most valuable assets your company can acquire. The thoughts and feelings of your customers should guide your company's path forward. If your customers love something, max it out. If they're unhappy with something, minimize it as much as possible.
For the marketing campaigns we created for customers, we realized that our customers wanted to make changes. No matter how amazing our final product was, they wanted to put their touch on it. So, instead of hitting customers with Change Orders and charging them additional fees, we priced revisions into our menu of services. While our initial quotes were higher, we were still in line with the competition, and our customer satisfaction surveys went ballistic! (In a good way.)
3. Reduce the Focus on Paperwork and Bureaucracy
Remember how I mentioned it's tempting to adopt policies for everything and create departments to enforce those policies? Yeah, you're going to want to run for the exits whenever you hear your Board members recommend creating new "Quality Assurance" and "Supervisory" departments. They waste time and resources by adding a layer between you and your employees. Instead, invest in additional training for your team so that they can self-police their work. Supervisors managing a team of competent employees are more than capable of running the QA side of the business.
Oh, and that goes for the legal side of things too! Operating with a poorly conceived Article of Association can turn into a nightmare. Forming a company and updating founding documents can be a real hassle, however, there are online resources that allow founders to easily file necessary documents to create their company. Focus on taking the time to handle the paperwork right the first time, just like you'll be asking of your employees in their day to day.
Keeping corporate legal documents up to date, without delaying to consult an expensive attorney, helps Founders minimize the time spent on paperwork, and focus on the objectives that keep their company growing. Focus on taking the time to handle the paperwork right the first time, just like you'll be asking of your employees in their day to day responsibilities.
Give careful thought to the type of legal entity you choose to found or expand your company into.
You're the leader, and if your team knows you're diligent and thorough, they'll be more willing to try and emulate your behavior.
4. Focus on Accessibility
As a customer, there's nothing more frustrating than having to wait on hold to talk to a customer service rep that doesn't understand their issue, or lacks the authority to resolve their problem. Ideally, a well-run company will have a very low rate at which errors occur. However, in the real world, things happen.
When your customers pick up the phone, they need to be able to quickly speak with someone that's competent and fully empowered to resolve their concern. If a customer is unhappy with the representative's handling of the situation, a customer should be allowed access to senior management in the company.
According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, "...customer service agents failed to answer [customer] questions 50% of the time." Combine this tragic statistic with the fact that the majority of dissatisfied clients choose to remain silent, and it's easy to understand why customers need accessibility to upper-tier management to quickly resolve complex concerns.
5. Cultivating Human Touch at Workplace
Sitting in a grey cubicle with flickering fluorescent lights up above is too sterile and isolated for a modern workspace. Your office needs to be bright, inviting and open. Remove the cubicle walls and allow employees to collaborate together.
Some of the most powerful steps a company can take to provide a more open and energetic office space include the subtle power of the color blue throughout the space. According to Stephanie, "Simple items like a plant or a photo of your family can help boost your mood during the day and actually make you more productive."
An office where an employee can ask a questions, just by looking up from their desk, is more efficient and transparent in its operation. Millennials are curious. They want to know what the rest of the organization is working on, and they definitely want to fully understand how they fit into the bigger picture. A fun, collaborative work environment not only helps your company complete projects faster, but it also helps new employees onboard more effectively with stronger relationships and better access to outside help.
With these simple, yet powerful strategies for scaling a business responsibly, you'll find that you're capable of incredible things; if only you can stay true to yourself and your customers.