Getting a small business up and running is one thing; scaling it is another entirely. Put simply, scaling is defined as a business’s ability to provide the same service or product, of the same quality, in a profitable and consistent way. For service-based small businesses, as well as those that sell handmade or labour-intensive goods, scaling is especially challenging. There are only so many hours in a day, and until cloning is within reach of the general public, increasing your output in the same amount of time can seem untenable. But – it’s not impossible.
Scaling successfully requires an informed, strategic approach tailored to the unique aspects of your business.
While successful scaling hinges on a few non-negotiable pillars (which I’ll discuss below), it’s important to remember that no two scaling strategies are alike. As tempting as the “cut and paste” approach (attempting to replicate the scaling strategy of another business) may be, this is a surefire way of sabotaging your scaling efforts. Instead, by investing adequate time and doing the necessary research, you’ll be able to map out a strategy that will best serve your business in the long run.
If you’ve set your sights on scaling your small business in 2023, these are the 4 fundamentals of a successful scaling strategy:
1. Find a ‘co-pilot’
I get it – no one else knows your business as well as you do, and if you’re operating on a shoestring budget, hiring someone with the necessary skills and experience requires an injection of capital you just don’t have. The thing is, investing in a right-hand ‘ride or die’ business bestie can spell the difference between scaling your business successfully and limiting your growth. When it comes to growing your business in a way that’s sustainable in the long term, the old adage “If you want to make money, you have to spend money” rings true. While it requires additional capital, hiring someone who can ‘take over the controls and fly the plane’ is one of the best investments you can make.
2. Streamline your processes
Time is our most valuable resource. In order to get the most out of every minute (and consequently, free up the mental capacity that scaling a business requires) it’s crucial that your day-to-day processes and operations are as efficient as possible. A critical step in achieving this is investing in capable staff who are thoroughly trained and upskilled – both in their specific roles and how they fit into the business in its entirety. In addition, implementing standardised processes ensures that every staff member is able to render the same quality of service or product.
3. Automate time-consuming tasks
In addition to streamlining operations, maximising your time (and therefore increasing your capacity) also relies on automating as many tasks and processes as possible. Thanks to the plethora of tools and SaaS (Software as a Service) available, tedious ‘grudge’ tasks – like consolidating invoices, managing email campaigns, or coming up with banner ad copy – can be done in a fraction of the time. From accounting software and social media management tools like Xero and Buffer, to AI content generators like ChatGPT, there’s a tool to automate pretty much any aspect of business operations. And while you’ll need to dedicate a few hours and a little bit of effort to learn your way around them, the long-term reward more than makes up for the initial investment.
4. Business funding that’s tailored to your unique needs
Lastly, successfully scaling your business ultimately relies on adequate funds. From hiring additional staff members and buying more stock to investing in bigger premises or new machinery, scaling requires a chunk of capital. If you need to source funding from an external institution, it’s imperative that you do your homework. Not all business funding is made equal: business loans from traditional financial institutions like banks, and cash advances from other sources, are all structured differently. (And more often than not, they ultimately work in favour of the lender. ) Before you sign anything, do your research and educate yourself on the various options available to you. (Start with this article that explains the differences between a business loan and a cash advance).