by Zeynep Ilgaz, co-founder and president of Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry
Your little business has been in the “cute stage” for a while now, and you love it dearly. But growth and diversity are critical for any business hoping to reach its full potential. After all, Amazon didn’t stay in Jeff Bezos’ garage for long, and the bell Bezos and Shel Kaphan rang every time they made a sale quickly became annoying.
Scaling operations can be a daunting task, so here are some tips for handling the inevitable growing pains:
1. Make a plan.
The old plan that got you where you are today is no longer viable when you’re growing your company in a changing market, so go back to the drawing board. For example, your focus may change from winning new customers to building relationships and maximizing growth with existing customers.
Every major move needs extensive planning, and though startingwith a blank canvas can be scary, it can also give you a sense of clarity and excitement about moving forward that will propel you through the challenging times ahead.
2. Monitor your cash flow.
When you’re expanding your business, you have to spread your resources further, and your regular bills and expenses might seem like a heavier burden than usual. Stay on top of your cash flow by monitoring it daily, paying your bills on time, and chasing down any unpaid invoices to help you manage your growth without stress.
3. Plan for the unexpected.
When you’re expanding into unexplored territory, you shouldn’t just be ready for unpredictable patterns and problems; you should plan for them. Always have a plan B in case one of your manufacturers goes out of business, your investors pull out, or you encounter an unexpected emergency expense. Then carry on with vigor knowing your back is covered.
4. Consider making partnerships.
Building good relationships with financial institutions, advisors, vendors, and investors is vital for growing your business. Partnerships add strength to your ideas and take some of the risk out of growing your business so you can focus on your vision.
5. Don’t forget your customers.
With all these exciting changes going on within your business, it’s easy to forget that your customers still expect the same seamless service from your company. A good reputation and loyal customer base can save you from flopping as soon as your growth spurt starts, so continue to cater to your customers, and they will reward you.
6. Never let growth overtake quality.
The most common downfall of growing businesses is when growth itself is the team’s aim instead of quality. Never lose sight of what you’re trying to offer the world. If your quality starts slipping, slow down, and refocus on your core offering.
7. Hold on to friends and family.
My husband is my greatest ally in business, and having dedicated friends and family by your side can provide much-needed strength, honesty, and consistency in rocky times. True loyalty can’t be bought, so once you find it, do whatever it takes to hold on to it.
8. Look for great talent.
Maintaining old relationships during your growth phase is important, but you also need to make room for new relationships that will light the fire under your business and encourage progress. Finding smart, passionate people with different skill sets will fill your business with the diversity you need to succeed.
9. Get serious about HR.
A growing team means more human resources demands, including accounting and administration. Maybe you’ve been handling payroll yourself so far, but now you need to think about outsourcing that job.
We hired outside consultants to help with our accounting and HR functions and eventually hired our own accounting manager. Knowing that your staff is taken care of is comforting and allows you to focus your energy where it’s most needed.
10. Invest in your infrastructure.
When you start growing your business, you may suffer from information overload as you process more financial records, employee information, customer interactions, sales, etc. Investing in a CRM system can seem like a hefty payout when you’re first starting your growth spurt, but it will prove invaluable as your business expands.
11. Focus on what you do best.
As your bandwidth expands during your first growth spurt or the market changes, you may have the urge to try lots of different things. But stay focused on the products or services your company does well, and constantly revisit your company mission to ensure you aren’t losing sight of your ultimate goal.
12. Set up a feedback loop.
Progress is difficult in the dark. Shed light on your operations by setting up channels that encourage honest, immediate feedback from customers, employees, and investors. This feedback will help you stay on the right track and adjust to problems quickly.
Growth spurts can be scary. You don’t know where your business is going or what it’s going to look like when it’s all done. But by focusing your energy in the right places, you can actively mold your business into something greater than you imagined and still achieve the goals you set out to accomplish. At its core, it will still be that cute business you created in the beginning — just a bigger, more successful version with a greater capacity to change the world.
What are your biggest growing pains as a business, and what are you doing to fix them?
Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband co-founded Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry, where Ilgaz serves as president. Confirm BioSciences is committed to being on the cutting edge of offering new, service-oriented drug testing technologies.