How to Scale a Business: 3 Actionable Tips
As an entrepreneur, business scalability is constantly on my mind. I’ve had the very unique perspective of peeking under the covers of many companies, from my first company in the food industry to Accelity, and Accelity’s clients for the last four years. By listening to these accomplished entrepreneurs, I’ve gained a good understanding of how to scale a business under any circumstances.
First, build a strong business foundation.
Just like a house, you need a strong foundation to be able to make the structure on top of it larger and larger. Have you seen these scenario before, or is this you?
“We just need an MVP and some customers, then we’re on our way to growth.”
“I don’t have time to work on my business because I’m too busy servicing the customers that I have.”
To these folks, I say:
An MVP and customers are an excellent first step. However, if you don’t have the foundation—your business processes—in place, you’re going to lose those customers once their contract period is over. I see companies that can complete the sale but fail at onboarding, servicing customers, continuing product development, showing customers the return on investment, and ultimately fail to retain the customer.
99% of the time, if you sell, but fail at everything else, those customers are never coming back. This mistake can cost you everything.
If your company is the cobbler’s kid with no shoes, I urge you to begin reinvesting in your own company. Accelity was once a marketing agency with a bad website and little of our own original content. I didn’t want to do that work myself (I was too busy servicing clients, go figure!) and my business began to suffer as a result. This is an atypical approach, but one of my first hires was a marketing manager for Accelity. She is responsible for generating leads and making sure we are our own best case study. Are you doing the same for your company?
Second, take your goals and double them.
Everyone tends to set goals that are inside their comfort zone—grow sales by a small percentage, get one new customer this month, launch one marketing campaign, etc. As a business owner, you should know that if you’re comfortable, you’re not doing everything you can to be successful.
My business coach always asks me the same questions: “Can you do more? Is this goal a stretch, or is it in your comfort zone?” Then, when I finally (sometimes begrudgingly) settle on my final stretch goal, she increases it again. Because you can always do more than you’re doing.
This might sound weird but stay with me for a minute: exercising at The Barre Code Milwaukee has really reinforced this concept. At the beginning of every class, they tell you to focus on what brought you to class that day. What are your goals and what are you ultimately trying to achieve? Your arms might be on fire, but you can hold them up for a minute more. Your legs might be shaking, but you can get down an inch further. The Barre Code instructors regularly teach that when you feel like quitting, that’s when you push harder. You only get out what you put in, so you better give it your all.
Translate these teachings to your business. Bring your best self every day. Focus on your ultimate goal. Double down when you feel like quitting. Make your goals bigger. This is the only way to find out out what you’re really capable of.
Third, if you're a services company, you have to productize.
Productizing your service essentially means that you’re wrapping your services into specific offerings and selling them as a product instead of selling one-off services, willy nilly.
I’ve spoken to many consultants and agencies that grapple with the idea of productization—what if no one wants the product that I’m selling? What if I lose the core of my business in the process? How many clients will I lose if I don’t offer everything they need?
At Accelity, we recently productized our services, and I can tell you first-hand that there are pros and cons. The major pro is of course the topic of this blog, scalability. When you have set processes and procedures in place, you can sell faster, onboard faster and prove ROI faster. A process that works well and produces results is like gold, especially in marketing.
The downside to productization is that you won’t be a fit for every single potential client—but you probably weren’t in the first place. Service-based companies are often filled with yes men (or yes women) that say “yes” every time they’re asked to take on a new project. As a consultant, I found myself helping with recruiting, customer service, processes and a ton of other business activities. You might lose the prospects that “need a customized approach” but what you’ll gain is business stability and scalability.
These three tips are my takeaways from years of working to grow my Milwaukee marketing agency, Accelity, as well as other businesses. Is your mindset right to grow, or do you have some work to do? Do you have anything to add to this list? If so, leave me a comment below.