When a business is in its start up phase its simple; The entrepreneur is involved in every aspect of the business and most everything can be done by the boss. Save for some exceptions and the cases of selling the skills of the entrepreneur as a professional service, this period of innocence is usually (hopefully) short lived and is followed either by sudden death or the need to scale up. If you are at the threshold of turning from a small business to a medium sized enterprise here are some tips for paving your way into a smooth transition.
Get a loyal core team – Your business is entering a phase where it is going to be harder and harder to personally pay proper attention to everyone that comes and goes. Know who your loyal team is and never forget that loyalty is a two way street. Don’t spare any time or resource to get to know your core team and invest into their development. This will show a genuine dedication and will be rewarded generously.
Trust, delegate and switch from visual to instrument flight – If once you knew every customer and the entire history and nuances of their purchase, it is not humanly possible to have this information in your head and deal with situations when you have tens of thousands of customers. This means that you have to delegate not only tasks but also the authority to make decisions. Beware of the entrepreneur’s tendency to micromanage. You will feel like you can do things better than everyone else but you are probably wrong, nobody will do things exactly as you would but at the end of the day they will probably do a great job in their area of expertise and let you focus on actually running and growing the company.
Getting good people on-board – Its cute and all when you are the smartest person on board when you first launch your company but you should be working on changing this very early on by coming in contact with and attracting talented people as early as possible. If you have tens of thousands of customers and your turn over is in the millions and you are still the smartest person at the company then start worrying, you are probably not running at optimal thrust and are headed for stalled growth in the near future. Go to events, network, advertise and interview. Get smart people on board, you will find a use for them.
Invest into technology – You don’t have to build software yourself but no matter what you do, even if you are in a more traditional branch like pharma or real estate, every business needs good software to run on. Your software will always be the most scalable part of your business, so when you are ready to scale up be sure to have a stellar software backbone.
Identify the gaps that affect the quality of your service or product and build systems to plug the big holes – If quality assurance is an unknown discipline to you now is a good time to get to know it. Remember, quality pays for itself and is the only option for a business that plans to be around for a while. Learn how to perform root cause analysis, implement systems for continuous improvement with corrective and preventive actions, perform risk analysis and listen and react to your customers’ complaints.