As the saying goes – unless you know where you want to be in five years, you’re already there.
When starting a business, we’re hustling day in and day out trying to whittle down our never-ending to do lists, so much so that we’re not always prepared for what we hoped would happen all along when it finally comes around – growth.
So how can you be sure your business can scale when the time comes, while still focusing on the daily tasks we need to do to make scaling a reality?
Whether you’re reading books on business, have a mentor on your side, or do the ever-faithful Google search for “how to start a business”, there’s one constant piece of advice that’s a must-do for any budding entrepreneur – goal setting.
Where do you want to be in five years? In 10? Will you be a small local team of five, or an international juggernaut with employees in the hundreds? Will you be serving a handful of loyal customers forever, or will you have a high customer churn rate?
Whatever those goals are for you, the surest way to make them a reality is to walk the walk from day one. It might seem bizarre when you’re sitting alone in your living room typing away on your laptop, but if you plan to have 10 employees in the next five years and a six figure revenue, you can’t afford to be thinking like a one man show.
Use it as the yard-stick for every decision you make. Is this how I would handle my finances with a six figure revenue? Would I still make this choice if I had a thousand customers instead of 50?
Once you have that end-goal in mind, you’ll start gearing your business towards the kind of success you want, rather than the kind of success you have. It will be different for everyone, but here are just a few of the systems and processes you can put in place from day one that will make scaling seamless when the time comes – and it will!
It might seem strange to be thinking big on finance when you’re still searching for your initial customers, but I can’t stress enough how much time, heartache, and money it will save you in the long term when you have a system set up from day one.
A confused spreadsheet and a shoebox of receipts is not good for your sanity, nor will it help if (or rather, when!) the taxman comes knocking on your door. You want to be able to find everything, at the touch of a button, with an intelligent system that can share your workload – automatically following up on invoice payments, balancing your accounts, and keeping track of expenses are all huge timesavers, and ultimately free up your days to focus on your bigger picture.
Find yourself an easy to use finance system that can act as your one stop shop for profit and loss, expenses, payroll and invoicing. There are great options out there, like Xero and Quickbooks, that have an easy to use and comprehensive layout that will keep your finances in check with minimal effort.
When things start to move for your business, you’ll inevitably end up with an overflowing inbox and a thousand conversations happening across any number of different platforms. But when customer service is your bread and butter, as it is for any small business, you can’t afford to let confusion take the place of giving your clients the experience they deserve.
Putting a customer management system in place from day one is the surest way to give your clients a professional, swift, and thoughtfully crafted experience without having to scroll madly through your inbox to figure out where each project is at.
No two systems are exactly alike, and the one you choose will ultimately come down to what you do, how you work, and the customer journey your brand offers. There are some great tools like Streak that integrate directly with your Gmail account, and more established and robust tools like Zoho, Zendesk and Salesforce that offer stand alone solutions.
Whichever you choose, I can promise you will save endless amounts of time and energy when you don’t need to fret about where every client is at on their journey, and what you and your team need to do next to deliver the very best for every project.
Trust me when I say, you never want to reach the point where your business is finally ready to scale towards success, only for your laptop to die and for all your hard work to go with it.
Always, always, always make sure you have everything you need backed up in a virtual cloud, whether that’s using a tool like Dropbox or having a designated server solution from a bigger business like Amazon. You’re looking for security and accessibility, as well as the peace of mind that comes with knowing your entire brand doesn’t rely on one breakable, stealable, ultimately unreliable piece of hardware.
One of the first things brands do these days is get their website up and running, but most focus on aesthetics rather than asking the question – can it handle what I need it to do?
If yours is a 2-3 pager describing your services with a contact page for leads, chances are the basics will be all you need. If instead your business is in e-commerce, or is a web based application, the demands on the backend of your site will very quickly lead to disaster if you’re not prepared for the influx of business you’re ultimately aiming for.
Trust in expert advice as to how best to create a website that will be able to handle everything you need to throw at it. The last thing you want is for your latest product to get the ultimate celebrity shout out, only to see that your website crashed after the first few sales!
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, blogging, vlogging, YouTube – there is certainly no shortage of marketing platforms you can use these days to get your brand’s content out into the world.
And while you’re a small start-up, it might not seem like a huge deal logging into each platform of choice and uploading some content. But once you begin to scale, you’ll quickly see that managing comments, messages, content and images from three different platforms, which all require something unique, can be challenging (to put it mildly).
Make your life easier by choosing a tool that brings every Tweet, Like, Emoji and Comment all into one place, so that sharing content and engaging with your audience (whether that’s 100, or 100,000) as quick and simple as possible.
There are platform specific apps like Planoly for Instagram and Tweet Deck for Twitter, or all encompassing dashboards from businesses like Buffer that allow you to tweak and post content across all different apps at once.
It also means you spend less time staring into the abyss that is your smartphone, which will benefit not only your business, but your mental health as well!
Remember – every brand started somewhere. Microsoft began in a garage, Spanx started in a tiny apartment, and Facebook began on a college campus. If you dream big, think big, and – most importantly – plan big, your brand will be ready to take on the world from day one, and you’ll have more time and energy to give towards making those dreams your reality.
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