Despite being common discussion points, there is a lot of confusion about what is actually meant by “Scale your Business”.
Some Common Questions…
“When are you going to start scaling your business?”
“What steps are you taking to scale your business?”
“Do you think you have a scalable business?”
These are questions that come up whenever business owners gather to talk shop. The word “scale” can mean different things to people who have various roles within the realm of owning or running a business. It’s entirely possible that the question you answer is not the question that was asked!
Furthermore, the prevalence of the topic of scaling may leave you wondering if you’re missing out on something very important. Let’s take a look at what scaling means, and how to determine what is involved in determining how and when to “scale your business”.
What Does “Scale” Even Mean?
According to the definition experts at www.merriam-webster.com, the term “scale” has the ability to function as a noun or a verb.
As a noun, scale means “proportional growth especially of production or profit”, as well as “a large market position”.
The term scale used a verb is a way of saying “to scale up”, or “to grow or expand in a proportional and usually profitable way”.
And throwing yet another angle into the matter is the phrase “to work at scale”, which implies “working at optimal capacity”, which would imply that the top level of growth has already been reached, at least for the time being.
So when you’re talking about scaling your business, what is the angle of discussion? In most cases, the topic of conversation is discovering opportunities for growth, considering the possibility of growth based on the realities and potential restrictions of the business, and balancing growing costs with increasing revenue.
How Do I “Scale My Business?”
While “scale your business” does refer to growth, it is a balanced type of growth, in which costs and profits balance, and obstacles and ROI are evaluated equally.
When simplified like this, that seems pretty basic. Obviously you want to make more money than you spend. And you definitely want those profit numbers to continue to rise.
At the same time, you can’t go about growth without a plan. You need to have an idea of how big you want your business to become within a certain timeframe. You’ll also need to carefully consider how to mitigate the increase in expenses that comes along with creating a bigger business.
Growth and change are inevitable over the lifespan of a business. Scaling a business makes sure that growth and change is purposeful and profitable.
The ultimate goal in scaling your business is to gain profit at a higher rate than spending on new costs. And to do that, you’ve got to be strategic, detailed, and above all, honest with yourself about your business.
The first steps of scaling your business are often referred to as “discovery” or “investigation”, because of the amount of fact-based research and personal examination you will need to do at this stage. You will need to ask yourself some very hard questions, such as:
How big is big enough?
At what point will you consider your business successful and work less towards growth?
Is this opportunity lucrative and worthwhile?
You want to make sure you get paid, of course, but you also want to make sure the time, effort, and funds you put into potential growth opportunities match the return. If adding a specific product to your line is causing a significant amount of hassle, for example, and you know the profit margin is going to be limited, this may not be the right way to scale your business.
What are you willing to do for growth?
What are you able to do for growth? Success doesn’t come without sacrifices, as any seasoned business person will tell you. Something will have to give, most likely in the form of money, time, or relieving yourself of a few responsibilities you’ve taken on personally in order to focus your energy on scalable practices.
How will you approach the unexpected obstacles?
How will you approach the unexpected that will absolutely appear on the path to scaling your business? If this is your first time down a particular avenue of growth, you will undoubtedly encounter roadblocks, problems, and flat out failures. This is part of the growth process, and the fact that these issues arise should be expected.
At the same time, you won’t know trouble until it shows up. Therefore, plan not for exact issues, but for the ability to cope with issues, in contingency plans, budgeting, and especially in taking the opportunity to learn from every step in the process.
Evaluating a Plan to Scale Your Business
Naturally, these aren’t the only questions that will arise in the course of scaling your business. Once the discovery process has revealed some very important answers, it’s time to get into the strategy for scaling. This can present itself as one very large, long term growth goal, or a series of small steps that get you headed in the direction you desire.
It is most likely that your strategy will include many small steps that lead to those big moments.
This strategy should not just cover what you’re going to do to promote growth while keeping costs down. It should also include a plan for what you’re going to do when your sales double, triple, or quadruple.
Look at your current business model. In the case of most startups, you’re running the show by yourself. You might outsource a few functions here, such as having a dedicated web designer, photographer, or video team, but it’s likely that you’re doing most of the web updates, content writing, customer service, email list management, making the advertising decisions, coming up with a marketing plan, drafting the newsletters, choosing the products, handling the accounting, working with vendors, and so on.
Defining Your Strategy…
One of the key components of any type of growth is that you will need to create alternate management strategies for at least some of these tasks. In some cases, that means automation: as through analytic tools, email management software, autoresponders, and the like. In other cases, you might need to outsource tasks or hire some assistance, such as a content writer, social media expert, customer service liaison, or financial expert, just to name a few possible roles.
In each of these scenarios, the topic of money comes up again and again. Can you afford to add staff and purchase subscriptions to costly automating software? On the other hand, can your business afford for you to NOT make these investments?
This is the question that lies central to the topic of growth. To “scale your business” means to find opportunities for growth, but to also understand your capacity for growth. The topic is more than just expansion and profits: it’s understanding yourself as a business person, and knowing your market to create a strategy that will lead to success over time.
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