Owning a small business that is a one-man-show is a great thing... for a while. Eventually, you get to a critical point in your business and you need to make a decision. Hire some help and grow further or stop accepting new business and be content with being a one-man-show. Both are fine decisions, as not every business owner wants employees. If you are a one-man-show type of small business and you want to scale your small business up, here is my advice.
Learn To Let Go
The hardest thing about growing your one-man-show is learning to let go of certain tasks in your business. You need to have a clear vision of what you want your business to be. Although it may seem silly when you are just a one-man-show, it makes sense to draw up an organization chart for your business. An organization chart will bring clarity to your vision.
After you have documented a vision of where you are going, you will need to decide what tasks or jobs you want to let go. It can be tough to let go of certain tasks within your business because up until this point you have handled everything yourself. Trusting other people to carry out tasks on your behalf takes time. However, in order to grow, you need to let go of certain things and focus on sales, customer service, and management.
Sales Becomes Your Focus
If you are going to successfully grow your small business, generating new leads and sales needs to become your #1 focus. As you scale up, it is important to keep new leads rolling in at a consistent rate. As you grow, leads and sales will become more predictable.
This data is important to track and analyze as you grow. Predictable growth rates will help you understand when it is the appropriate time to hire a new employee. If you want to successfully grow, you need to establish what "full" means to your current staff; and it should never be at 100% capacity. You need to determine when the optimal time to hire is and my guess is that it is in the 75-90% full range.
You don't ever want to get to the point where you are turning away new business because you are too busy. You also don't want to be several weeks out on being able to meet with a new prospect. The dance between new sales and customer service can be a tricky one to handle, so tread lightly.
Customer Satisfaction Is Still Huge
As your business grows, you need to make sure that your customers are still satisfied. A "check in" email or phone call can go a long way to ensure that your customers are happy. I feel that many business owners get caught up in big sales numbers during business scaling. While putting up big numbers is a good thing, losing unhappy customers is bad.
The long-term outlook can't be ignored, so customer satisfaction needs to remain a priority throughout the growth process. In addition to you following up as an owner, you should instill this principle into your managers. You may not be able to follow up with every customer you have, so it is important for your managers and employees to know that customer satisfaction is a big priority.
Make it a point that your customers and managers own customer satisfaction.
You Have To Be All Business
It's just business; you have heard the phrase before. The fact of the matter is that you can't hesitate when it comes down to a business decision that you know has to happen. It may be firing an unproductive or disgruntled employee and any smart business owner knows that you need to fire a bad client every now and again.
Looking out for what is best for your business at all times is crucial. However, what will separate you from the competition is understanding that what is best for your business doesn't always immediately positively affect you as a business owner.
Sometimes you may need to take a step backward in order to take two steps forward. As an example, when you hire an employee, the new funds need to come from somewhere, and most likely that will be your pocket. However, you need to trust that you are making the right decision in hiring a new employee. You are betting that the new employee will actually cause you to personally make more money in the future than you were making before you hired them.
As a business owner, you will constantly be faced with difficult decisions. All you can do it trust yourself and always try and make the best decisions for your business.
Growing a one-man-show is not easy because most likely you have never done it before. I have also heard stories from countless entrepreneurs who grew their one-man-show into something they hated and went back to working by themselves. The above may sound complicated and contradictory because it is. You need to let go of certain tasks, while focusing on sales and making sure your customers are happy, while also remaining "all business" throughout the process. It sounds like a complicated dance because it is... and not everyone is good at it.
What advice do you have for solo business owners who are trying to grow?