If you read articles, blogs, and books on business with any level of frequency, you know there are no shortage of authors who rope you into the mindset that “Failure creates success.” I’ll support that statement, and agree that as you begin your path of business ownership, failures, big and small, will help shape your practices as you move forward. But this article is an effort in helping you grow your business without having to fail. I’ve failed. I’ve helped others who have failed. Now, let me help you learn from our mistakes.
If your business is experiencing growth right now, no matter if you’re a start-up or a more mature business, you’re likely excited, proud, and scared out of your wits. Your mantra has most likely shifted from “sales, sales, sales” to a more conservative “manage, manage, manage”, leaving the sales process to more or less run itself. You’re now thinking in terms of “What a great problem to have” and no longer wondering “What’s the problem now?” If you’re not careful, you’ll become so focused and lose your peripheral vision, that the foundation upon which you’ve built your business, will begin to crack, weaken, and crumble.
So, just how do you grow your business without failing?
- Grow the complete Remember when you first opened your business and all you could think about was….well, everything? You thought about the customers, the environment, your processes, you worried about the books, you got excited when a delivery came in. And you, of course, had a system in place for each area of your business so it would operate smoothly. Get back to that. When we grow our businesses, we are so gung-ho on continuing to generate large monthly sales numbers, or accrue more assets, or see an increasingly large cash-flow, that we can forget to ensure our building blocks are still in place. Are our customers happy? Are our customers returning? Are our internal bookkeeping and accounting processes still firing on all cylinders? Pick an area of your business and ask yourself “Is this growing consistent with our sales?” If the answer is yes, fantastic. If not, maybe you should spend a few late nights getting the rest of the business back on track.
- Know Your Numbers. Let’s try something. Go to your Quickbooks account, run your year-to-date P/L. Now, look at the revenues. Surprised? Probably not. Everyone likes seeing the money that comes into the business. Now, look at your cost of goods and other expenses. Surprised? If you answered yes, whether you’re happy about what you’re looking at or not, you have some research to do. If your margins are fluctuating enough to catch you off guard, especially during a growth phase, you are not taking ownership of your business. Just because we have accountants doesn’t mean we can be hands-off managers when it comes to finances. And I get it, you’re a busy person. You’re running a growing company! Why should you have to be so concerned about margins and whether or not you’re maintaining a positive cash-flow? Chief, because it’s your job. There are employees, suppliers, customers, and communities who are all counting on you to do your job. You may not have a traditional boss, but you definitely have people you have to make happy.
You gotta know what story your numbers are telling you. This is easy to fix. Go home tonight and get comfortable, and read over your financial statements. Compare them to last month. Last year. The more questions you ask as you read through them, the more answers you will find to lead you to a better understanding of how your business operates.
- Execute 100% of your processes 100% of the time. No business is perfect. No person is perfect. Because of this, the processes which we implement into our businesses are not going to be perfect. But if we as business owners can utilize our processes 100% of the time and achieve a high-quality outcome, we should continue to do so until we find a way to improve the process. Mistakes are made when the process is dismissed. Frequently, even within my own department, I will be a part of a process that was rushed or sidelined to save time, save a few keystrokes, or save face. When we don’t follow the processes installed, we begin to see sloppy work. You cannot scale a business with sloppy work or processes that you only use some of the time. The reason companies spend billions of dollars a year on training, is so team members are more than just knowledgeable on processes—it needs to become second-nature.
If you took the time to read this article, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing growth and are a little unsure of how to manage it. I think it’s good to be unsure or even scared. I’m always wary of business owners who seem overly-confident and completely in the know of what tomorrow brings. The fear of failure drives business owners just as it does other professionals. I think it’s a necessary emotion to have when you are the only person with keys to the store. If you’re looking for more tips and advice on how to grow your business, my favorite resource is the Secretary of State’s office in my state (Indiana). I encourage you to contact your state’s secretary of state and see what their Business Services Division can do for you.