Latest posts by Graham McKechnie
Most entrepreneurs understand that, no matter how good their idea, startup ventures are inherently risky. However, it might be surprising to learn that, according to certain studies, the startup failure rate is over 50 percent after five years, and rises to 70 percent after 10 years. Of course, there’s no magic-bullet formula for success, and no way to completely shortcut the steps that take a startup from a fledgling state into a flourishing business.
With that in mind, the ability to scale up after launch is arguably the single most important challenge a startup faces. Getting the growth basics right is an obvious prerequisite: market research, logistics, infrastructure and old fashioned hard work are crucial factors during and beyond launch. But of course, you’ll need to build on that momentum in order to achieve long-term success.
If you’ve made it through your launch phase, don’t take growth for granted: keeping customers engaged, attracting new business and increasing profits on an ongoing basis are daunting propositions for all organizations, not just startups. To achieve all of those things, you’ll need to build a business that can scale with growing demand and interest.
Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies that startups can use to weather the growth storm: consider these scaling “hacks” to keep your company on the road to stability and success.
Define your goals
Growth needs to be measured, which means establishing a metric by which to judge progress as you scale up. In other words, defining goals for your business over the short and long-term. The goals you set for your startup don’t necessarily have to be achievable, but the focus they bring (in success or failure) will inevitably strengthen your business internally and provide structure to your scaling plan. Goals could be as ambitious or as trivial as you need them to be: from aiming to hit a number of new website visits per week, to signing up a certain number of yearly customers.
Plan for capacity
After the flurry of launch phase activity, one of the classic problems startups encounter as they scale-up is hitting their production capacity too soon. Increasing your capacity to meet demand isn’t as simple as it sounds, since the process almost always comes with a need for more employees and more capital.
Interruptions to either of these resources can hamstring your growth at critical moments, so it’s important not to let capacity problems take you by surprise. Think about scaling your strategy ahead of time: when will you need to hire new people? Can your funds get you to the next threshold?
Your employee population is intrinsically linked to the growth process; not just in terms of capacity needs, but also in terms of the skills and qualities your business requires to reach its goals. Think carefully about what and who you need. While it’s tempting to hire employees with a singular focus on enhancing your core services, don’t neglect internal processes like payroll, which also require a spectrum of talent and skill. If your attention is consumed by optimizing core services (obviously an important issue for all startups), it may be worth outsourcing recruitment to a specialist HR provider.
Scale your administration
As you grow, don’t forget your internal business administration will need to scale with you. Payroll, for example, is vital to the smooth running of any business, but involves complex compliance requirements and a significant administrative burden. Certain technological tools can help businesses keep pace with their growth needs, such as payroll and HR processing software, business banking services, and shipping-tracking.
Consider social media
Beyond its commerce implications, business growth also brings greater awareness, meaning you’ll need to think about how you interact with customers and the public. The most important tool businesses have in this context is social media, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and you’ll need to consider carefully which platform is going to work best with your growing needs and capabilities.
Integrate your social media strategy with your growth considerations, and plan how you will reach out: while Instagram, for example, may not offer much for a financial services startup, engagement on Facebook or LinkedIn might be far more beneficial.
Lots of startups find business partners who can help them manage increased logistical needs as they grow. In principle, these relationships are win-win, as both parties benefit from increased exposure and customer reach. However, depending on your growth rate, or a disparity in business size, the partnership might be a little one-sided.
With that in mind, as a startup, it might be worth thinking about less-conventional approaches to finding partners: beyond traditional transport and delivery partners, for example, disruptive new options may allow you to scale your customer base at a rate which is much more beneficial to your needs.
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