Chocomize, a New Jersey-based custom chocolate company, was a relatively new company. Business was good and growth was steady. That is, until Oprah Magazine caught wind of the company’s chocolatey offerings. Chocomize was then featured in the magazine, and from then on their call volume exploded – from 15 calls a day to nearly five times that amount.
As a business owner, you likely know by now to expect the unexpected. And while a big-time publicity blitz could definitely be a dream come true, any type of fast growth can turn into your worst nightmare without a plan.
How can you keep up when your start-up takes off?
1. Find a mentor
A mentor can be a big help, no matter what stage of the game you’re in. Since he has been there, done that, he can offer valid professional advice or help you network in the right places. This person can be a friend and confidante, as well, when the work-life balance line gets blurred. And you don’t need have just one mentor. You might have friends or business colleagues that offer expertise and points of view in different areas.
2. Set medium-term goals
You probably have set a long-term vision and mission to plan the state you want your company or career to be in the future. And short-term goals, such as skills and experiences you can accomplish in the first year to 18 months.
But what about medium-term goals?
Henry Hsu, GM for growth and new markets at NerdWallet, explained in a LinkedIn article that medium-term goals are “three to five year milestones and goals that serve as stepping stones” to your overall vision.
Where do you see yourself or your small business in that time frame? What have you done to reach those medium-term goals?
3. Put together the right team
John Rampton, founder and CEO of the online invoicing company Due, believes hiring team members who are smarter than you is a must for a fast growing company.
“It will be your team, not just simply your product and business strategy, that will steer your company to success,” Rampton said.
Related Article: How Your Small Business Can Build Better Omnichannel ROIYou not only should recruit and hire the best possible people to execute your vision and mission. But onboarding, or properly training those team members in the knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary to become effective in your organization (and to stay with your organization), is equally important. Onboarding ensures your employees know your mission and empowers them to carry out your vision each day.
4. Get rid of “dead weight”
Once your company starts to grow and make a name for itself, you definitely have the upper hand. You’ll service enough customers and can pick and choose who you do business with day-in and day-out. You’ll have the “luxury” of saying goodbye to particularly difficult customers. You know the ones who always try to get you to come down on prices or suck up all your time and energy.
It’s not always easy to let those customers go, because it means their revenue goes with them. Ask Janine Popick, founder and CEO of Vertical-Response, an email marketing services company. At one time, most of the company’s manpower was devoted to one customer. Popick said it came to the point when enough was enough.
“It was a tough pill to swallow, because they were one of our top five customers,” Popick told Inc. “But I approached them and said, ‘Look, guys, we can’t keep maintaining this and ignoring our other customers.”
Is it time you follow suit?
You can’t do it all. If you are the CEO or founder of a small business, that’s hard to hear. This company is your brainchild, your baby. And it’s not easy to take your hands out of any part of the business. However, if you’ve built a strong team that shares your business vision, trust them. Because the time will come — if it hasn’t already — when you will have to pass responsibilities to your employees. It’ll be difficult, possibly even emotional. But it’s a must as your business continues to grow. And that means you have to evolve as well. Part of that is to learn the art of delegation.
“If you’re spending two hours a day scheduling client appointments, is that really the best use of your time,” Business growth strategist Kim Pisolkar offered in a Huffington Post article. “Perhaps you could delegate the management of your calendar to your assistant, essentially freeing up those two hours for you to focus on business development opportunities that relate directly to your critical musts.”
6. Consider financial implications
As business advances quickly, there are several financial implications to consider, including the following:
- Collect all outstanding debts quickly.
- Decrease prices by 10 to 15 percent
- Refinance or borrow funds
- Reward customers with discounts for prompt or upfront payments.
- Eliminate unnecessary overhead.
- If you need a larger space, consider a short-term lease.
- Carefully watch key performance indicators
- Maintain an inventory of best-selling products.
Further, Lucrum Consulting, Inc. recommends you create a budget for your business, understand your cash flow, evaluate equipment purchases based on numbers not institution, plan for the costs of employees, and seek outside financial help if required.
7. Implement inventory management
If you are like 43 percent of small businesses, you aren’t tracking inventory accurately (using manual processes like pen and paper or spreadsheets) or aren’t tracking inventory at all.
You simply can’t run an efficient or effective business when you don’t know what inventory is selling and what isn’t. Inventory management ties directly into the health of your financials. In fact, Melinda Emerson, small business coach, recommends you think of your products as “cash” on your shelves.
“If you are short on cash in the bank, but have lots of it tied up in product on your shelves, you need to convert what is on the shelves into cash,” Emerson said. “Why? Because the bank won’t let you deposit your inventory into your bank account.”
If you don’t have access reliable inventory reports, that is the conundrum you’ll find yourself in. When inventory levels are all wrong, you’re business will suffer and your customers won’t be happy when you don’t have the in-demand products they want. An inventory management system can be implemented relatively easily, with little or no downtime for you and your staff.
Especially if your business is expanding quickly, you need to keep up with the momentum. With real-time reports about inventory levels, sales projections, and customer buying behavior, you’re sure to get a head start toward a successful future.
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