I posed a question to the LinkedIn Inbound Networkers Group where I am a member. The question I was looking for feedback on was: How do you scale a service-based business? My question set off a pretty interesting and enlightening conversation, as you can see by all the comments here. I asked the question to get the thoughts of others. I had some ideas of my own on the subject, as I have been scaling an outsourced bookkeeping service for years. However, I wanted to get some feedback from more experienced business owners. The question that I presented to the group served its purpose: I learned what other people thought about scaling a service business. So, I have come up with some thoughts on not only how to scale a service-based business, but also why it is so difficult to do so.
The Vision Of Scaling
One reason I believe people think that scaling a business is so difficult is because of the vision they have. Entrepreneurs tend to think big; it's kind of in their blood. Therefore, if they aim big and come up even a little short, they think they have failed. I think that the vision of what you are trying to scale your business toward is very important. Having that vision clear in your head will allow you to successfully scale your business. Knowing what you want is crucial. Carole Mahoney of Unbound Growth gave me some great feedback on the subject of understanding why you want to scale. Carole said:
"Ask yourself; why do you want to scale your business? What does scale mean to you? (don’t you hate it when people answer a question with two more questions?) If you can’t answer these questions, STOP RIGHT THERE. Scaling a service-based business is very hard. If you don’t know what is motivating you to put your feet on the floor every morning, your likelihood of success is not on the positive side of the statistics. And if the thing that motivates you is not bigger than yourself, then it is not likely to be motivating to anyone else."
This thought rang true with me and my experience in scaling our business. First, I wanted to scale our business enough to allow me more freedom to ski and fish. I had a "real" motivator behind why I wanted to grow the business. Second, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to scale toward. I never wanted to grow to be a huge firm in a large office downtown; that sounded like a headache to me. I wanted to work in a small business environment and have our clientele be made up of small businesses. I wanted to work with like-minded people who had a passion for other things outside of the office. I had a clear picture of why I was attempting to scale the business, but I also understood what scaling meant to me. I knew what I wanted our business to look and act like.