Many companies scale only to find that their organization has turned into something that it wasn’t supposed to be
31 Aug, 2017FORBES.COM
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. In fact, many companies scale (even responsibly) only to find that their organization has turned into something that it wasn’t supposed to be, with bloated resource expenses, lagging company culture or too much micromanaging that doesn't allow employees to get any real work done.
As I was building my company, I knew that I wanted to be lean and successful, and that that doesn’t always correlate with growing in size. Throughout my company’s life, we have worked with some of the world’s biggest brands like Coca-Cola and Juicy Juice despite managing to remain small, with just six employees.
Identifying what types of clients work best is a much easier process now, thanks to these tenets of scaling that have helped me narrow down my target customer base and focus on work that makes an impact. Below are some of my thoughts on growth in authority and how focusing everything down, from staff to services, can make your startup more successful than others twice your size.
Regular business logic would guide you to expand on services instead of limiting them, as there are more dollars in providing more services to any given client. Having additional service offerings makes it easier to upsell to someone you have an existing relationship with. However, just because you offer more projects doesn’t mean you can scale quality at the same standard.
It is also true that just because you used to offer services in the past doesn’t mean you should continue to offer them. For example, my business used to handle SEO, PPC, social advertising, development and more, but has stopped serving clients in those areas because of greater returns in the area we’ve chosen to focus on -- engagement marketing. When some services began to outperform others we were offering, I knew it was time to make the switch.
If you aren’t experiencing an unbalance in the fractions of your services (e.g. everything that you offer makes about the same percentage of your company’s income), there is another reason to narrow down what you offer: expertise. If your employees’ experience and expertise lies significantly in one area, and you’ve been recognized in the industry for it (or have extensive data to back up your success), it may be time to double down those efforts and focus on what you’re best at, even if you’re OK at other services.
Just because you have more business coming in, it doesn’t mean that you have to take on more full-time employees. As long as employees aren’t getting burned out or overworked, hiring shouldn’t be a priority. Same goes for companies that are anticipatorily hiring new employees. If the work isn’t already there, it may lead to wasted employee costs and time once they have been brought onto the team.
We have a core team of six that can handle projects for a team of 20. Hire carefully and allocate work out to trusted freelancers when you need to. This setup will allow you to rely on your trusted core employees, as well as bring on independent contractors when you have specific projects that you need help with.
Something that has helped my core team perform at its highest level is documenting and standardizing everything. Have standard guidelines for every client and service you offer — this makes it easy for any team member to work on projects where they are needed. You can also save time and prevent costly mistakes by having checklists for quality analysis, which ensures that all your projects are completed with the same standards of quality that you've set company-wide.
You can also make data and project management work easier by creating and using templates for various aspects of client projects. This saves time in the set-up process and only requires employees to learn one style of document for each piece of the project.
Related: You can now find jobs on BEAM
Utilizing technology to its highest capability is another way to scale without growing in size. Of course, the perfect CRM, research tool or collaboration suite may already be available, but if it’s not, consider creating your own that will fit your needs. Often, the development time spent on a new tool will eventually be less than cumulative time employees spend working within a piece of software that doesn’t quite do what you’d like it to.
Because of all of the above, I’ve been turning down new revenue. If you are a bootstrapped startup, it almost seems foolish to turn away clients who are asking you to take their money. The problem is, if you start working on projects that don’t fall into your niche or what you’re trying to accomplish, it can cause more setbacks than refusing the money in the first place.
When determining whether to take on a project, make sure it fits into three specific areas:
“Small and mighty” no longer has to have a negative connotation. By streamlining your process, service offerings, and potential customer base, you can keep your startup small without sacrificing performance or expertise.