When you're building your business, you may have to do almost everything yourself. But getting your business off the ground is only the first step; after that you've got to achieve sustained flight through consistent growth. For most entrepreneurs, growth comes with a matching increase in working hours. This should be expected for a certain amount of time, but for many, growth becomes a burden that doesn't go away. It stays and eats away at quality of life, convincing them that the only remedy is to work even harder.
Good growth management means producing more output with a proportionately smaller increase in resources -- in other words, scalability. Scalability is the difference between success you can enjoy and success that has you in a choke hold.
Signs of a lack of scalability may include never having enough time, for work or personal life; being reactive rather than proactive; being too busy to be creative, to improve, or to plan; or having a track record of successful ventures that can't seem to grow beyond a certain plateau.
Scalability is the number one management issue we see in entrepreneurial companies, and we recommend planning ahead for it. To do this, think of your company as made up of people, processes, and technology.
People are generally not the most scalable resource; however, the right people with the right state of mind have a power beyond any other resource. They can help transform current methods into new more scalable paradigms.
Hire people who fit the purpose and culture of the company, those who would be excited to work for you and whom you are excited to have as an associate. Finding the right people takes time; don't put it off and don't try to hurry it.
If your organization is large enough to allow delegating, learn it as a skill. Empower people and get out of the way. Be clear about the output you expect and provide enough clarity for them to be creative and empowered to achieve your vision.
When you first begin delegating tasks or adding staff, it's normal for results to fall short for a time. The job will rarely be done perfectly, but "80% of expectation on time" is very much better than "100% of expectation too late"--or 100% done by you (and probably still late). Allow time for people to learn and for new systems to settle out.
Build a team that, instead of bringing you problems for you to resolve, brings you choices of possible solutions. Choosing among solutions is a more scalable process for you than coming up with solutions from scratch.
Policies and processes should be an extension of you and your company's purpose. They allow you to set norms people can follow, even when you are not present, which adds to your scalability.
The power of good policies and processes is that they are more consistent than people, and if they are aligned with the company's purpose, they serve as a guide to keep operations consistently on purpose, and not as an impediment to achieving company goals.
The rule of thumb I like to use is that policies and processes should ensure that good things happen for our customers. Policies that focus instead on preventing bad things from happening to our business are rarely scalable.
Technology is more scalable than people and should be foremost in your mind when you are managing growth. It's wise to spend time figuring out how to use technology to simplify processes, decisions, and choices and to create a consistent and repeated value chain.
Don't look at learning new technology as a waste of time; but if a given technology takes too long to learn, consider that it might be the wrong solution. It's better to be frustrated because you can't find the right technology than to be frustrated because you forgot to send invoices this month.
In other words, the things that got you to this point in your business may not be enough to raise you to the next level. Start thinking about scalability early on so that growth means not floundering and exhaustion but a stronger business and a better life.
A strategic planner for the last 28 years, Rudy has held senior executive and C-level positions in fortune 500 and emerging growth companies. He is a sought-after executive coach and speaker at Vidal Consulting Group, developing innovative strategies and tools that allow companies to maximize operational efficiency and alignment to customer values.