For years you labor. You struggle and sacrifice and slowly build the dream of creating your own company. As an entrepreneur the roadblocks are numerous. But more than anything, you also know the payoff is priceless.
Suddenly the bridge is crossed, the business takes off and the growth might just be more than what you even expected. You have to find new employees and customers are lining up as fast as you can service them. It's all coming together, but the growing pains are being felt everywhere. Somehow, you have to conquer the chaos so you can meet your business' challenges and reclaim your increasingly chaotic life at the same time.
This can be a scary, if not downright terrifying time. Just when everything is taking off, you're faced with the very real question of, "Can I keep up?"
I went through this scenario a decade ago when building Infusionsoft, and it taught me several lessons that can be applied to any entrepreneur whose business has left that fledgling stage and is ramping up for big growth.
7 Ways To Grow Smart
1. Stick to your core purpose. The most important thing you can do when scaling your business is to keep your eye on what got you there in the first place. Stay true to your vision, and make sure everyone else does too. Make sure the decisions you're making during this time of rapid growth connect back to why you started your company in the first place. Infusionsoft's core purpose is to help small businesses succeed, and while we've had opportunities to sell upstream to medium-sized businesses, it's simply not what we do. That type of growth doesn't match with our purpose, so we aren't going to do it.
2. Align your company to a mission. Now that you have everyone focused on the core purpose, you'll need to chart your course. Map out your goals and assign a timeline, so you know exactly what you need to achieve after six months, one year and so on. Every employee at my company has a copy of what we call the "Everest Mission" -- our annual business goals through 2016. By asking every team member to work toward very specific milestones, we are able to grow in a strategic way. One critical thing to remember: Be sure these goals are measurable so you know which activities and initiatives are truly delivering. In time, you'll create the framework to achieve your mission.
3. Be picky. It's a good thing. As your company's stature in the marketplace grows, you can expect a slew of wild opportunities at your doorstep. As hard as it may be, you should slam the door shut on most of them. This is the time to stay focused on your customers and wow them at every opportunity. It can be easy to get distracted from your customers with all these new opportunities coming your way, but remember, if you don't have customers, you don't have a business. Spending time and energy on opportunities that don't align with your customers' needs is just a distraction. Don't let them become costly distractions.
4. Focus on what keeps on paying. As your company grows quickly, put the focus on sales and marketing strategies that will continue to pay off over time. You should be seeking out partnerships and systems that will produce for years to come, not just one-off deals for the sake of a quick buck. For example, you can package your company's expertise into something like a book, seminar or podcast that will continue to be a lead magnet over time. It's an asset that will keep delivering.
5. Set priorities that align to the vision. Here's where it can get tricky. During a period of rapid growth, we know how important it is to stay true to the company's vision. But it's more complicated than that. Founders and CEOs need to have an ability to step back and get the overall lay of the land. At Infusionsoft, we take time out every quarter to identify priorities for the coming quarter and align the company to them. Things can change rapidly, and it's very important to evaluate whether the way you spend your time is aligned with your ultimate purpose. Are your actions taking your company toward that North Star? Do the goals you originally outlined still serve your company?
6. Enroll people in your core values and mission. There is huge power in reaching out to your staff, partners and customers, and inviting them to make your mission a reality. People love to play on the winning team, and if your company is taking off, use the positive momentum to your advantage. For example, each year Infusionsoft hosts a small business conference that brings together thousands of customers and pundits to share small business success stories. It's an invigorating experience and so many people walk away with a desire to be part of your company's success. Use the momentum created from these opportunities to continue tomove the ball forward.
7. Hire, train (and fire) to your vision. Every person you hire will either strengthen or weaken your culture. That's a tough lesson for many to learn, but deep down we all know it's true. Consider applicants in terms of their personality and fit, and train them through onboarding resources that reflect your culture. Look for contributors who are motivated both by the company purpose and a genuine enjoyment of what they do. On the flip side, you can't be afraid to fire people based on patterns of violating your company's values or poor performance. There's no doubt your company will be better for it in the long run.
Navigating your company through a period of rapid growth can be exhilarating and stressful all at once. But the tips above will help you be prepared. Remember to stay focused on your original vision, and before you know it, you won't be worried about growing your small company. You'll be running a large one.