Agility is widely regarded by experts as one of the top qualities of successful small businesses. Here’s how to stay agile, even in times of growth.
1. Get serious about technology
Don’t expect your staff to make do with ageing technology.
Part of running a business is constantly assessing your technology solutions to ensure you’ve got the best solutions on the market.
This will help your staff produce brilliant sales results regardless of whether you’re selling a product or service, and can also bolster staff morale.
Make sure you get hold of the fastest internet you can get your hands on, and the best mobile phones and tablets on the market.
2. Manage your cash flow
Failing to manage cash during periods of growth is common. When you’re landing new customers it’s all too easy to think you’re winning, but cash flow issues arise when you’re juggling upfront costs and delays in getting paid, points out Ben Fletcher, managing director of Sydney accounting and advisory firm, Generate.
“For example, you might land a big project that has lots of costs attached to it that need to be paid upfront, but you can’t invoice until completion. Then, you find out that your client has 90 day terms. How do you fund that?,” Fletcher asks.
Speak to your accountant about how to smooth out the peaks and troughs in small business so that you aren’t spending more than you’re invoicing, which is common in periods of growth.
3. Remove ego from the room
The jostle for position and managerial hierarchy can be a serious impediment to small business during periods of growth. Which is why real estate startup Cubbi implemented a number of role shifts within the team.
Co-founder Michael Gilbert switched roles from operations management to content creation and growth activities with a staff member to ensure everyone plays to their strengths. “With nothing to compare to and a really small team and budget to work with, we have to stay really agile to keep finding the sweet spots as we progress,” Gilbert says.
4. Don’t just add staff
A common mistake is doubling or tripling head counts overnight, but product development, marketing and sales are unlikely to be in sync, the chief executive of marketing platform, Digital Stack, Peter Harris says.
Instead, grow in increments and adjust as you need, he says.
“You can’t fix everything by growing headcount – you get too many people and also the wrong people by growing too fast. The quality of work can suffer, and so too can the internal culture. You need to scale in a controllable and sustainable way,” Harris says.
5. Don’t spend for the sake of it
Resist the urge to borrow money during periods of growth, advises the co-founder of tech startup ShareRing, Tim Bos.
“One way to remain nimble as your business grows quickly is to keep a balanced focus on operations and sales, whilst also making sure you have budget to grow the R&D and innovation side in sync with the day-to-day operations,” Bos says.
6. Ensure transparency
A period of growth tends to make people think they’ve got the right to make quick decisions without checking with key decision-makers in the business, such as spending. Ensure the appropriate systems are in place to manage spending and ensure you have some clever communication tools are in place and ensure everyone uses it, such as Slack, Jira or Confluence, CEO of tech startup Gooroo, Greg Muller adds.
7. Use the best tools for your business
You can’t expect to get the best out of your staff if you don’t give them the best tools available to do their job.
Whether it’s your booking systems, quoting or payment process, or installing a chat bot on your website to cut down the number of calls being handled by your office, there are ways to do things better in almost every area of your business.
It’s the little things that count, like internal document sharing. Look at a tool like Dropbox Business, which allows people to store their files in one central place, sync changes across devices and easily share them with colleagues, partners, vendors, customers and even your business accountant.
8. Define your culture
Defining what you stand for and communicating that to your staff can be hugely important during growth periods. It’s easy to lose sight of your culture as you grow, so make culture a priority to make sure your business adheres to its core values.
As you scale, communicate your business ethos, values and attitudes to new hires and also use company culture to determine whether applicants are suitable. This will allow you to remain agile, help new employees immediately understand what you stand for.
Also be sure you carefully assess each opportunity presented to your business and being sure that you can handle the additional workload or sales without putting too much pressure on each area of your business.
9. Keep financial records in order
Make sure you’re diligent with your financial records during periods of growth, Fletcher adds.
“Keep accounts up to date, put together a cash flow forecast and refer to it regularly to ensure everything is going to plan,” he says.
Budget before entering into contracts that involve any kind of expenditure and that includes your time, Fletcher adds.
“Don’t become complacent with cash because it’s often not until it’s too late that you realise there’s an issue.”
10. Implement better staff management tools
Managing staff can be the most difficult element of running a small business, prompting growing numbers of managers to implement multi-functional workforce management systems such as Deputy. The technology allows SMEs to optimise rosters, calculate wage costings, capture and records time and employee attendance and even utilises facial recognition for clock-on.
Paul Flynn is the owner of Sydney eatery Thievery. “Our value is not in administration, it’s on the floor with customers, and working on new business opportunities,” he says.
“With Deputy, we spend less time on the admin and more time on the aspects of business that makes us money and grows our business.”
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