Ask any business owner if they want to grow their business and almost all of them will say YES, but only very few are set up to handle this growth. What happens is as they start to grow, any current problems or bottlenecks are only exacerbated. In many cases, they are worse off as compared to when they were a lot smaller.
Most businesses rush into wanting to grow their business so they engage a marketer to help them, this in turn results in an increase in prospects and enquiries, which leads to an increase in sales, which leads to an increase in delivery or fulfilment (i.e. actually doing the work that has been paid for).
You see the problem lies in time capacity and cashflow. Business owners are looking at their business as it looks right now and are seeing the problems they are facing and if only they could grow the business, they could make more money which would solve these problems. Well that’s what they predict will happen. Unfortunately it’s rarely the case.
A great exercise is to forecast what will happen to your business when it grows. Ask yourself, what will break first when I 10x my business?
Nine times out of ten you will run out of time first. What I mean is that there will not be enough hours in the day for you to cater for this increase. Just imagine 10 times the amount of new enquiries, 10 times the amount of sales calls, 10 times the amount of customer service hours required, 10 times the amount of time spent on client work.
So what now. Most of the time the bottleneck will be around customer service/enquiries and delivery of your product or service. Administration is also a large time burden on many businesses so I’ll give you some tips and how-to’s there as well.
You may already have a team, big or small, or maybe you are still flying solo, any way as your business grows you are going to need more time. There are only (realistically) 180 to 200 hours in a month available. I’m sure you can already appreciate that this time gets used up very quickly, even if you are only a micro business at the moment.
To start, most business owners email inbox is out of control and they spend hours in it. I’ve created a 3 part training course that I share with clients to help them get this under control. It’ll set your email inbox up to be a machine and give you a 4 step process to follow to clear out your inbox and stay on top of it.
Next is your calendar. Remember, it is YOUR calendar so you should be in control. I use Google Calendar (along with many other Google app’s) and integrate a great tool called TimeTrade (you could also check out Timely or ScheduleOnce). What this means is that I can send a TimeTrade link in an email and when clicked, it will allow the recipient to pick a time I have available. This saves all that back and forth trying to find a time that suits us both plus they can reschedule if need be. All I have done is send a link. I’ve set time-slots for 15mins, 30mins and 60mins so when I send the link I can dictate how long the meeting will be. Once the recipient picks a time/date it automatically put it into my calendar and their calendar and sends me a notification.
If you have a large amount of customer support, enquiries or maybe tech support queries, it may be best to implement a Ticketing System. What this means is that instead of someone making an email enquiry (or telephone) and it goes straight to someone’s email inbox, you can setup a ticketing system so the query goes to this system and it can then be best tracked, and delegated to the best person. This free’s up your email inbox and makes tracking and replying to queries so simple. I personally do not use a dedicated ticketing system right now, being near the end of 2015, but if the business was 10x bigger then without a doubt I’d implement. Here are a couple to check out: Zendesk, Help Scout, Groove.
A business is basically made up of systems and processes. It’s just that most of the time, actually almost all the time, these are all in your (the business owners) head. Getting these out of your head and into some sort of order is the start of systemising your business. Not only does that make it super easy when you grow and new people come on board but also if you decide to bring in investors or decide to sell. It’s like having an owners manual as to how to drive your business.
If you are to 10x the business then you’ll run out of time in an instant. That means if you are the person on the tools, like a plumber, then you’ll only be able to do plumbing for 180 to 200 hours per month. So if we 10x your business then you’ll need to account for 1,800 to 2,000 hours per month worth of work. So unless you having a cloning machine and we can make exact replicas of yourself, you’ll need to build a team or outsource a team or change up your business model. In the case of the plumber, that means hiring more plumbers or engaging another plumbing business to do the work and you split the profits or if we change the business model, instead of making 10x more works we could look at who to make 10x more revenue without 10x more hours needed. This is where it gets exciting.
The administration side of any business is always a time burden…and not always that much fun either. As the business grows, so to does the admin. More paperwork, more phone calls, more emails, more invoices to pay, more employees to pay, more people screaming. What I find in most cases is that the fee earners in the business are usually doing more administration work than they need to do. A fee earner is a team member that actually creates revenue. In the case of the plumbing business, the plumbers are the fee earners. A non fee earner would be a receptionist, or a client manager, or an offie manager or administration assistant. The fee earners should be doing basically zero admin, it needs to be delegated to admin team members. By delegating, the fee earners now have more time capacity to dedicate to billing out more revenue. So just by changing up how they spend their time, and without working any more hours, they can create more revenue. You need to start by tracking where time is spent and what you are actually doing. This is nearly always a surprise to the business owner. I just had a client run this exercise on his team of 5 and he said the results were very interesting and he’d be making some quick changes.
You also need to be making the most of technology. Even, just as a start, using something like Dropbox to store all of your documents online so you can access them from anywhere and share them with anyone. It just makes it so easy. Imagine 10x the amount of paperwork or filing cabinets you already have? For most people that would bring you to tears. Or just get onto Dropbox and problem solved and it’ll scale as you 10x the business.
So there are a few of the common problems you’ll face as you grow. In many cases you’ll already be feeling some of these problems. Part of the solution is implementing systems and part is growing your team. Smart business owners forecast how the business will look as it grows and they start making decisions today to avoid any bottlenecks or headaches along the way. Even just following my tips and some of the systems I mentioned in this article will free up a stack of capacity for you. I know because I’ve experienced both sides and a streamlined, efficient and easy to run business is a lot more fun.