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14 Proven Strategies For Sustainably Scaling A Small Business

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Successful small businesses have a tendency to grow rapidly. If you're a business owner who's never experienced this before, the next steps might seem uncertain. New entrepreneurs often ask themselves if they should quickly scale to meet demand or be conservative with their growth.

To help answer this question, 14 members of Forbes Business Council offer some strategies for scaling effectively during a "growth spurt" in your business. MindEquity leads the charge.

1. Incorporate Predictable Human Risk

Incorporate predictable human risk into strategic decision making. Entrepreneurs are typically optimists who are prone to overconfidence. This derails judgment in the critical growth phase. Seek independent advice and learn from others who have successfully scaled a business. - Nuala Walsh, MindEquity

2. Don't Be Afraid To Step Aside

Be comfortable in promoting a new CEO or passing over the reins to a more experienced CEO while you take a different role. Startups and scale-ups require different skill sets, so having the humility to know your own limitations, even temporarily, can be the best thing for the clients, team and the business. - Saana Azzam, MENA Speakers

3. Keep An Eye On Your Cash

Pay extremely close attention to your cash. Growth almost always costs money, and while it also brings in money, the delay between spending and receiving can kill you more quickly than anything else. - Darcy Burner, Buttonsmith Inc.

4. Shift Your Mindset

Based on the experiences of my clients and peers, the most effective strategy starts in your mindset. Shift from being "the worker" in your company to being the CEO of your company. Just like a CEO, create your bench and identify the talent that will help you execute on your agenda and meet your business demands. Recognize the need to lead your company and to rely on your talent to move the dial. - Loubna Noureddin, Mind Market Consultants

5. Empower Your Executive Team To Make Decisions

When you are experiencing rapid growth as a small business for the first time, it's more important than ever to empower your executive team with more decision-making authority. Provide that core team with the tools, confidence and goals they need and trust them. When you empower others you enable them to shine. The business leader can now focus on strategy and high-level implementation. - Kim Ford, SIOR, Rise Pittsburgh

6. Automate Aspects Of Your Customer Experience

If possible, automating the foundational aspects of the new customer experience can make rapid growth more stable. It will effectively "buy time" between payment and delivery where an owner can respond to a surge in sales by hiring or investing into better systems to handle the growth. - Matt Deseno, ZappyChat

7. Hire An Executive Assistant

Hiring an executive assistant will drive massive value. The cost savings of taking routine work off your plate are obvious. What's less obvious is that an effective EA will help you prioritize your work (so you can have the biggest impact), will unblock your team (so they can have more impact) and will act as an invaluable safety net for when your rapid growth encounters bumps along the way. - Joseph Fung, Uvaro

8. Understand The Four Intangible Capitals

An effective strategy for scaling your business in understanding the four intangible capitals. They are customer, social, structural and human. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses around this for critical capitals will allow the business owner and their team to create effective strategies to mitigate risks and grow rapidly. - Scott Snider, Exit Planning Institute

9. Build The Right Team

People are critical to success, so it is essential to hire the right personnel from the start. The strongest teams are made up of people with diverse talents and multidisciplinary skill sets so that as your company grows, the team can adapt and take on new roles. - Mainul Mondal, Ellipsis Health

10. Develop High-Quality Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Most small businesses don't have proper systems and SOPs in place to scale. If they start growing, they constantly face problems in logistics and they tend to waste time fixing these issues. They enter bottlenecks that take time to overcome and can restrict their growth. Small businesses should prepare in advance by developing quality repeatable SOPs that can help them grow. - Bittu Kumar, Enterslice

11. Expand Your Team's Skill Set

One of the effective strategies for business owners is expanding the skill set of their team to meet the demand. There are a few ways to do that. First, invest in the professional development of your team for upskilling. Build a network of collaborations with other people, organizations and outsource providers to increase the scope of your resources as demand for your business grows. - Yohanes Sucipto, Amithya Group

12. Outsource Your Weaknesses

Outsource what you're not good at and what you don't enjoy doing. If you don't have an admin or executive assistant on your team, you are the executive assistant. As an entrepreneur, your time is too valuable to be getting into the weeds and details. Hire someone (VAs are even better) to do that work so you can focus on strategy and work that moves the needle. This sets you up for rapid growth. - Steven Louie, Vertical Street Ventures

13. Understand Whether Your Growth Is Truly Sustainable

Not all instances of rapid growth are created equally. Soberly make a distinction between ephemeral spikes and sustainable shifts in long-term demand. Develop KPIs internally to distinguish the two. You don't want to staff up or stockpile inventory for what might turn out to have been a flash in the pan. For example, weigh one-off purchases differently than recurring subscriptions. - Mark Van Wye, Zoom Room

14. Don't Trade Service For Scale

The worst thing a company can do is to give up the one-to-one relationship that creates early growth. Consumers crave bespoke, craft and small-batch solutions, so trading service for scale can be a disaster if not carefully considered. - Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign

First Printed in Forbes July 2021


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