3 Telltale Signs That It’s Time For Your Company to Scale
Written by Yapstone
Business //February 09
You know your best friend in middle school? The one who stuck by your side through thick and thin, as you played tricks on the teachers and made people laugh? It sure was fun learning about life together and finding new ways of acting out. But then the day came when you realized that doing well in school required a little effort; you wanted to keep up with your classmates, but your buddy didn’t. Deep down you knew it was time to part ways.
When someone or something isn’t working for you anymore, it’s time to grow up and move on. Even if it’s the way you’ve always done things and you’re not sure what the future will look like without them. Growing up implies change, and change can be scary, even for the most intrepid among us. Evolving a business is no different.
According to MarketWatch, with the epic conversion from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based one, Millennials are taking longer to grow up. Life experience is becoming “more valuable” than before, so, they’re taking their time.
But then of course, there’s the other extreme — the problem of growing up too fast. Rapid growth can be exciting (just ask Uber, now valued at $68 billion!). But, companies can run into problems when they grow up too fast – namely, cash flow, talent shortage, and failure to keep the pace. 90% of startups fail, many of them because they grow too fast or misread the signs that the time is right.
In case of SaaS companies, the reasons behind their cosmic flops more often than not have to do with poor management, or failure to gain traction — rather than being outsmarted by the burgeoning competition in their quest for market share. Then there’s the whole first-to-market vs fast-to-market debate. Many Saas innovators scramble to get their products out ahead of their peers, instead of keeping an eye on sustainability and future growth.
So, how do you know when you’ve reached that critical growth stage? If you’re tired of being a hamster in a wheel, or turning down new clients because your infrastructure can’t cope — that could be a telltale sign that it’s time to grow. Here are three of the most common indicators that you’re ready for the next phase.
- You’re stretched too thin
Every business owner knows about wearing different hats. You could call it a rite of passage. But, when you get to the point where work is affecting your personal and professional relationships, it’s time to make a change. When you’re bleary-eyed and close to burnout, it’s a sign that you’re ready to grow.
If your close-knit team is overwhelmed and asking for help and your best and brightest are leaving, it’s time to reevaluate. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working too hard on the nuts and bolts of your business that you miss employee frustrations. But if your most vocal team members are becoming quiet and getting fed up about not being able to contribute and advance, get ready to scale for growth.
Your business is only as good as its people, so it’s important that you treat them well and don’t push them too hard. Who wouldn’t like to get maximum productivity out of their team 100% of the time? But if your employee input is unsustainable, it’s like asking a 100-meter sprinter to run a marathon. Before too long, physical exhaustion will set in and he’ll have to retire from the race completely.
According to a Gallup poll, on-the-job pressure is the main reason for employee dissatisfaction in the workforce. Nearly half of American workers admit that their job is “very or extremely stressful.” So, working harder isn’t always working smarter. In fact, the opposite is often true.
If you’re running too tight a ship, which forces your best employees to abandon, you’ll sink before reaching your destination. Hard work and elbow grease may be the reasons you got where you are today, and that’s commendable. But in trying to keep up that pace – and forcing others to do so – you could be stunting future progress.
- You’re blowing past stretch goals
If your company is experiencing a massive leap in revenue and you are forecasting accelerating growth, then it’s time to scale up. Running a successful business isn’t just about consistency and hitting the same goals, quarter over quarter. It’s about surpassing them, and taking your steady startup to its viable second stage.
Every entrepreneur knows that setting targets is necessary for growth. So if you’re hitting your stretch goals, then it’s time to face the next challenge of scaling your business. Of course, you’ll need to make sure you have the right ingredients in place for growth, including funding, revenue, experienced HR function, corporate infrastructure plan, etc.
Every company’s path is different. Yours may be particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the industry, technology, legislation or competition. This means the indicators that it’s time to grow your business are not set in stone. But if you’re confident in the demand for your product and experiencing any of these signs, step up to the plate.
- You’re growing in spite of yourself
As your product or service gains in popularity, your company is receiving inbound requests from prospects in new markets and geographic regions. Your traditional customer base is starting to shift and inevitably, your current customers and your new ones are requesting more from you – more time, more functionality, more customer support…more, more, more. They are also now comparing your offering with your competitors (who are knocking at their door). You quickly realize that your current product/service can only take you so far and unfortunately, it wasn’t designed to scale this fast.
To grow effectively, a company needs a committed team, a scaleable infrastructure and reliable partners. If you are missing any of these ingredients, you may have to turn down real revenue or growth opportunities. Fortunately, you are not alone, as most companies face the challenge of scaling their business. The most important next step is identifying the real blockers to growth and then addressing them.
Do you need to hire more people with different skillsets or experience? Have you allocated enough funds to invest in your infrastructure? Do you have the right partners on board? Is your business model still working.
Just like your best buddy in middle school, it can be hard to cut ties with people, partners or providers that got you to this point. But if they can’t grow with you, or aren’t interested in progressing to the next level, you need to go your separate ways. Growth opportunities are good problems to have, yet they still must be addressed so that your business does not hit the proverbial plateau and get stuck.
There are many are indicators that will tell you when it’s time to ante up and scale. Keep a watchful eye on company attrition (especially your best employees). Stay up-to-date on your corporate infrastructure (maintain that budget line item). Monitor your current partners and providers (make sure they keep pace with your growth). Above all, remember that your function as an entrepreneur and leader is to concentrate on the long term strategy of your company. Don’t get too caught up in the daily news and tact too often. Don’t get stuck in the weeds of day-to-day tasks and miss out on seeing the bigger picture. Look for the signs that your company is ready to face new challenges and scale. And then do it.
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