The competitive environment of London can add significant pressure to grow your small business, scale up quickly, and reach ever more ambitious targets. While founders dream of exponential growth and record-breaking sales, the experience can turn out to be frustrating if they don’t plan and prepare adequately.
In the early days of your business, all of your effort is going toward growth, so it would seem that as long as your product is good, scaling up would be an even, natural and continuous process. However, what many company owners fail to take into account is the additional demand and complexity that growth brings. The calculation is rarely as straightforward as simply doubling staff or equipment to double output.
Part of this is due to the way that most new ventures launch with a small team of specialists independently leading the area to which their expertise applies. At a certain level of growth, leadership and management needs increase, and you need to prepare for this new or increased demand by either investing in staff with the potential to shift into management positions, or by scouting and bringing in skilled managers and leaders who also understand your business and are a good fit for your company culture.
Staffing, equipment and various other costs will also increase and change in ways that are less predictable than you’d expect. A supply chain that worked well for a smaller volume order may become prohibitively costly or functionally inadequate for increased orders. Staff who helped you launch the business with extraordinary effort and unusual sacrifice will start to complain of burnout and may cripple whole departments if you don’t plan ahead and expand the team quickly enough.
Some product or services scarcity may come across as exclusive and desirable in a good way, but if it gets too out of hand, the public perception can quickly sour, and your business can end up being labelled as poorly managed or lacking in quality. Early-stage staff may also prefer working independently, or as part of a tight team of specialists, and run into personality conflicts and other frustrations as the workplace expands and grows.
Finances are another challenge – rapid growth may outpace the billing cycle and previously negotiated business loans. Alternately, growing accounts may be underutilised or ignored in favour of more pressing concerns and fail to be fully leveraged. Finding and making the most of financial investment becomes a pressing concern.
There are several things that you can do to prepare and thrive during rapid business growth. Develop a business plan as soon as possible – ideally, prelaunch. Lay out in that plan the variables and how you plan to respond should your situation change for the better, or for the worse. Refer back to and update that plan frequently. Follow it, and use it to shape your responses and structure your growth in the most strategic way, rather than in the panic of the fast-paced moment.
Have an employee development plan. Know each of your staff members’ skills, capabilities and ambitions, and invest in cultivating in-house leadership ahead of the demand so that you have great managers and department leaders when the time comes, instead of scrambling to keep up. If in-house talent development is out of reach, cultivate a relationship with an excellent recruitment agency and continuously be on the lookout for people who would be a good fit.
Consider building relationships with outside agencies for specialist services. In many cases, it’s more effective to draw on expert services as needed, rather than hiring and paying a salary for more hours than needed, or expecting a specialist to diversify into areas in which they are less capable of excelling. Leadership and management consultants and financial advisors are good roles to outsource. Expert guidance and specialist insight can keep you on course and help you make the best decisions for your business. Shard Capital can help you with investment and support through growth cycles, and their wealth management branch can support broader financial advisory services. Securing and making effective choices with capital will be a key element in sustaining and thriving during rapid growth.
Plan breaks from the madness. A weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual time for reflection and strategy will help keep you on track, and is a good time to look back at your business plan, mission and goals to make sure that your growth is headed in the right direction. Ensure your effectiveness with the right support – outside expert advisors and internal talent development to build management capability. Your business should come out of a growth cycle stronger than before, and poised to accelerate into the next one.