A small business owner trying to grow will realize that scaling a business is difficult, especially a service based business. As a small business owner grows a business their role changes dramatically. Some are not prepared for the role change and others don't know it is coming. Understanding that your role as an owner will change as your business grows is important. Here are a few things to consider about your role as a small business owner as you grow your business.
Your Not Alone Anymore
At some point in order to grow you are going to need to hire some help. Hiring employees is a huge step for any small business. Up until the point of hiring employees you didn't have to rely on anyone but yourself. There is no internal communication that needs to take place in order to get the job done. No need to follow up with anyone but your customers. You need to realize that hiring employees may take some work off of your plate but it also adds some additional tasks. You need to make sure that the work is still being delivered to your clients in a timely and acceptable manner. As you grow you need to keep high standards on customer satisfaction and make sure that your services are not slipping.
Sales and Growth
As you begin to grow the business you need to shift your focus from service and operations to sales and growth. This may sound contradictory but in reality you need to make sure service is being upheld, while you focus on sales and growth. The majority of your time will be spent in non-billable activities, rather than billable activities. Much of your time will be spent generating new leads through networking and inbound marketing. Referrals will still be a huge source of leads but only come with high levels of service and continued networking. You will also spend a lot of your time going to sales meetings, writing proposals and closing new customers.
Another role that you will take on that may or may not be new to you is measuring and analyzing growth. Financial reporting benefits a small business as much as it can benefit a larger business. It will be important for you to put a financial forecast in place. You will also want a budget as well as sales goals. You should be measuring your progress against all of your goals and making the necessary adjustments as you grow. Growing a business without a financial plan is like running your business blind.
Bye, Bye Operations
As you grow your business you will need to adjust the time you spend in the operations end of the business. When you are a solo business you have no choice but to handle all of the operations. As you grow you will need to farm out some of the work to internal employees. I did not find it beneficial to step out of the operations completely. I found that continuing to be involved in the operations helped me sell and grow the company. However, I did take on fewer operations than I had in the past. Understanding and accepting that you need to take on fewer operations and more tasks associated with growth is important.
Managing Employees And Customers
A huge part of your job as you grow your small business will be managing employees as well as your customers. Employees will require a lot of training and management to ensure that your services are being delivered the way you expect. You will also have to watch employee time to make sure that you are going to stay on budget. Keeping your labor costs in check, while being fair and keeping your employees happy is a juggling act.
Your customers are going to need extra special care and attention as you grow. This is especially true if you are having an employee handle most of the operations for that client. As you grow make sure to maintain excellent relationships with your customers. They will appreciate you following up to make sure that everything is going well. Also, you may want to maintain some of the higher level operations tasks with some clients to stay involved and make sure things are being handled appropriately.
Did You Want This?
As you grow your business make sure you are always happy. I have met so many business owners that grew their business into something they hated. They regretted growing beyond being a solopreneur and sold their business so that they could go back to being a one man show. Some owners find that having employees is a headache and yearn for the simpler times. Before trying to grow your business you have to ask yourself; are ready to grow your small business? My advice is to constantly review your goals. Where are you at right now? Are you happy? Where do you want the business to go? Why? Will you be happier? Growing a small business is difficult so don't go through all the trouble only to be unhappy. Stay focused on your goals and execute.
As you grow your small business you may have a similar shift in roles or quite a different story to tell. One thing I have learned is there is no magic formula. You can tap your network and mentors for advice, but it is only advice. Don't ever think that you know everything. I am always asking for advice from our employees for suggestions on any improvements that they feel we can make. I don't try and kid myself that I know everything or that I know exactly the right moves at all time. However, I'm not sure anyone knows all the right moves.