By Eric Greene
Want to successfully scale your business? Lean in and listen hard: for I have failed spectacularly. We’re talking Hindenburg level crash and burn here. How so? I once led a multimedia company from modest size and profitability to 400%+ growth and $40 million+ in annual revenues in just four short years. But this wildcat growth bit us hard in the ass, and during the last not-so-great recession over a decade ago, the company, like the Hindenburg, blew sky high and sold off for parts.
Ouch, right? But hard lessons learned. This led me to several subsequent entrepreneurial growth success stories (as a company leader, entrepreneur and consultant). What has all this taught me? What do I wish I’d known and can now impart to you? Here goes….
- Get and stay in the entrepreneurial mindset. As a founder, your job doesn’t end when you dream up your product or service. That’s the easy part. Owning and running your own business is forever a roller coaster of ups/downs and forward challenges. This part never ends. You either have an adapt/learn/evolve/mindset and the stomach for it, or you don’t. Simply put, this life isn’t for everyone.
- Check your ego(s) and get smarter. Newsflash: you don’t know everything, and you can’t do everything yourself. You are probably already over-working and over-stressing. By definition, you are a jack of all trades and very likely a master of very few. Also by definition, if a few others started with you, they don’t know everything either. To grow, you need better people in any mission critical area where you are weak or stretched thin. The sooner you surround yourself and your company with people who are more expert, smarter and faster than you are in key areas, the better. This is too expensive, you say? Well, it’s not as expensive as flailing or failing. Example: your company isn’t strong at digital marketing, but it’s key. Find someone who is, be it a part-timer, a contractor, whomever, and watch how quickly you are dollars ahead.
- Scaling your team. From above, this starts with understanding where you are less strong and hiring people who are better/smarter/faster than you in various key areas. You don’t have to be the smartest at everything. You just need to organize all the other great people, motivate them and get them to work together. Early on, this likely means hiring versatile people willing and able to do a few key things well. But the more you grow or look to grow, the more you need KICK ASS, SPECIFIC EXPERTISE IN KEY AREAS. This is one of the keys to winning.
- Scale your systems (create, document, teach). As you grow, consistent and quality delivery becomes more difficult. You need to build foundational “secret sauce” that can scale. For every key aspect of your business, be it production, delivery, sales, marketing, or accounting, come up with systems that work well. Document each system so that it can be taught to current and future team members. Do this and you become more efficient and cost effective while still delivering quality. Fail to do this as your business grows and your delivery will inevitably break down. Your stress will be the only thing that actually grows.
- Vision/mission/culture/vibe. Envision the culture you want to have when you are bigger…when you are small. What’s the vision, the mission? How do you want people to roll, treat each other and treat customers? Establish this right away. Preach it early, preach it often. And never stop preaching it. Do this and it will become embedded in your company’s DNA and lifeblood as it grows. Establishing company culture is harder to achieve as you scale.
- Moolah. No duh, there is never enough cash in startups. No easy answers here, but there is this: put your investment of time, money and resources into the things that count. Invest and laser focus on what it takes to make, market, sell and deliver a great product or service. I.e., invest in the areas that make the money. But be frugal as hell on spending in non-essential areas. Don’t work in a fancy office space with expensive furniture when ordinary or spartan will do. Invest where it counts and save your pennies where it doesn’t.
Do these 6 things and increase your chances to ascend and fly high. Ignore them and, well, prepare to crash and burn.
Eric Greene is a proven executive turned success/executive coach + team facilitator at the Greenehouse (www.GHouseCoaching.com). Pouring my experience (startup, 3 successful entrepreneurial ventures, former President, CxO, EVP/GM) into helping you work smarter. Lead better. Stress less. Kick ass. And find more joy in doing it.