In today's article, I want to revisit a subject I have thought about and written about many times over the course of my career. I've written about growing a service-based business in the past; that includes my article titled: "Why Is Scaling a Service-Based Business So Difficult?" Some of my thoughts on the subject remain the same, while others have changed. Here are some thoughts on how to grow a service business.
Your employees are incredibly important
I was at a networking event this spring and we were put into groups to go through an exercise. The question was, "What is the #1 thing you are struggling with right now?" I kid you not, 6 of 7 people said, "Finding good people." The guy sitting next to me scribbled something down on piece of paper, handed it to me, and said, "Here, read this book." On the piece of paper was written Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. I blazed through this book in no time and took extensive notes. I really recommend it for anyone who wants to hire top talent only.
In a service-based business, you are in the business of people. The people who you bring onto your team are incredibly important. You have to work with and rely on these people day in and day out, so you better like them and they better be good. I don't think many service-based business owners realize how important sourcing and hiring top performing employees is to their success until they make a few bad hires. Then, once you have good employees, the next challenge is to retain them.
Retention of everyone involved
Retention is incredibly important to service-based businesses and I'm not just talking about employees. It is important to retain employees, customers, vendors, and people in your business network. Let me get a little more specific; you should retain all of the above who are a good fit for your business. Some customers start out great for your business, but things may change over time. Maybe your business model changes or your customer's needs change and they no longer fit your ideal customer profile.
Retention is one of those things you need to concern yourself with constantly. You may put all of your effort into finding new customers, but neglect your current customers and you will lose them. If you are having problems retaining customers and employees, you can often get into a pattern of one step forward and then two steps back. Meaning that, because you failed to retain those who are good for your business, you are actually growing in a counterproductive manner.
Communication and acceptance of vision
Your vision for your business is absolutely crucial to your success. However, a vision doesn't do anybody any good if nobody but you knows what your vision is. If your employees don't know or accept your vision, then how can they be expected to help you accomplish it?
The daily actions of you and your team should support your company's mission and your vision. Part of our new employee orientation on day one is to read our procedures and policies manual. This is not a 50+ page novel about all the things they can't do. It is a simple, concise document that explains who we are as a company, what we are trying to accomplish, and what procedures we follow to try make our overall mission and vision a reality. Right on page one we include our mission statement and list of core values so that new employees understand what we are trying to accomplish and how we operate before they even start working.
Your role as a CEO
One of the major mistakes small business owners make is trying to do everything, or trying to do too much. If you have decided that you are going to be a one-person business, then you have no choice but to do everything. But if you intend to grow a small business, then you must understand your role as a small business owner in a scaling business. As a CEO, your job is to develop a strategy and execute it. If you try and put your efforts into too many different things, you will grow slowly and inefficiently.
This goes back to my first point about why sourcing and hiring top talent is so important. You can come up with a great idea, develop detailed processes, implement a kick-ass marketing campaign, and close deals all day long. However, if you don't have a team to run your service as if it were you right there doing the work, then you are going to fail.
Sales are important, but so is everything else
I'll be the first person to tell you that sales are incredibly important. Just a few weeks ago, I was preaching about how growth planning always leads back to marketing and sales. So what is the most important thing with regard to growing a service-based business? To put it quite simply, it is everything.
You will find that, in order to truly scale a service-based business, your business needs to be good at everything. If you put too much emphasis on sales, you might overwhelm operations or give bad customer service to your current clients and cause them to leave. Putting all your efforts into building processes will ensure that operations are solid, but if sales aren't rolling in, then there will be no work for operations to do. If all you do is market and bring in prospects, but your sales team sucks, then that really doesn't do any good.
Scaling a service-based business is a never-ending balancing act between all the facets of business. Over time, you polish your skills in these various areas and eventually find the balance. You are going to fail at certain aspects over and over and learn lessons the hard way. But persistence pays off. Dust yourself off after your failures, learn from your mistakes, adjust the model, and move forward.
True entrepreneurs never give up.
What advice do you have for growing a service-based business?