When it comes to scaling up there is a fine balance to be had. Startups that try to scale too rapidly typically end up with a multitude of organizational issues that are difficult to remedy later on, while startups that scale too slowly can miss out on big opportunities that come with having more resources and revenue. When planning a scaling up strategy, there are a few key things founders should keep in mind.
Laying a Solid Foundation
You can’t build a solid house on a weak foundation, and the same goes for successful startups. If you get these things wrong, it may lead to trouble down the road. However, if you get them right, you should be off to a strong start
Hiring the Right People
Although it can be tempting to simply try to get bodies in seats, the hiring process should be carefully thought out. When vetting candidates for your startup, consider the following qualities:
- They don’t need constant management; i.e., you can trust that they will get the job done, and done well.
- They are more skilled than you at the job you’re hiring them to do.
- They fit the company culture you’re trying to build.
- They are passionate about the business or industry your startup falls in.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of qualities to look for in your new hires, but it’s a good start.
Understanding Your Core
Before you can grow, you need to have a solid understanding of the basics of your business: your core product, customers, and marketing and sales channels. In a piece for Inc., Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg, offers the following core checklist:
- Have you nailed down market-fit for your product?
- Do you know who your core customers are?
- Do you know which marketing channels offer the most ROI?
- Do you have enough resources to scale while your business is unprofitable?
You should be able to answer each of these questions in the affirmative before you begin scaling.
Don’t Move Too Quickly
As funding comes in, it can be tempting to hire more people, spend more money, and begin adding onto your product. For startups that want to go the distance, it’s important to show a certain amount of restraint in each of these areas for a few reasons:
- The need to keep teams small and nimble.
- The need to keep finances lean.
- The need to fine-tune your product before expanding.
Finetuning the Process
Once you’ve got those basics up to scratch, it’s time to continue honing your processes and organization.
Automate or Outsource
It’s important that you try to find ways to automate or outsource as much as possible in order to streamline your operations. Spending too much time on labor-intensive tasks like training, payroll, billing, etc., will impede your ability to scale effectively. If you can’t automate a process, cost-effective outsourcing is the next best option. Your internal resources are best spent working on your core product, while ancillary roles like design or content writing should be delegated to outside contractors until you’ve reached a comfortable scale. At that point, those roles can move in-house.
Removing Internal Barriers
Arguably, one of the most difficult things to get right is knowing when to get rid of processes that are no longer working. By holding on to old or inefficient processes, you can quickly slow down your growth. Key to getting this right is understanding the “why?” Why do you do things a certain way? If the answer is “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” it’s time to consider if there’s a better, more efficient way to do the same job.
Boost Your Marketing
Your startup can’t grow if nobody knows about it. That’s where your marketing strategy comes into play. Although best marketing methods will vary largely depending on what your product or service is, content marketing is touted as one of the best long-term marketing solutions because of its scalability and its evergreen nature.
Go on Vacation
It may be hard to let go of the reins, but one sign of a business that is ready to scale is its ability to function without you there at all times. This autonomy is achieved by slowly delegating your responsibilities to others. It can be difficult to let go, but this is essential to ensuring that your business is ready to scale.
It can be easy to lose sight of the big picture while scaling, but your mission and core values exist for a reason, and they should drive each decision you make. Over time, you may find that they need finetuning, and that’s perfectly normal. But as you scale, it’s important to remember what it is that’s driving your business in the first place and let that guide your growth.