5 Challenges you are likely to encounter when growing your business
Speaking as a business owner, it’s an amazing feeling when you experience business growth and have to move from a single owner operator type business, to one that has to recruit and develop new team members, introduce systems, best practices and processes to enable repeatable and scalable activities to be introduced and enhanced further to support your business model, customers and business growth.
Sorry, but that’s where the challenges start to unfold! Growth is not all seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. The reality kicks-in when you have to recruit and develop new employees, watch costs go up significantly, need more systems, and in general more of everything and one thing you can’t buy more of is, time!
Previously when I worked in the Corporate world , hiring, developing and building high performing teams and managing constant change was part of your everyday challenge, but it wasn’t your money you were spending (or at least that’s how it feels now!) – but when you scale the big corporate departmental budgets down, and start the process of growing a very small business, it’s vastly different and can be an overwhelming and scary journey…hope you’re up for reading more about my insight on business growth challenges, some personal and others observed working with businesses we help to scale and grow.
You might already be thinking about some or all of the pitfalls below. But this doesn’t mean that your business will be immune to challenges. The best strategy for growing businesses is to be aware of common problems so you can prevent them or fix them fast.
1. Right employees at the right time
Of course, you don’t need to recruit employees to grow a business, but it does help with many elements of the multi-hats you will find yourself wearing when you go through the start-up and scale-up phases of your business growth journey.
Initially I wanted to avoid recruiting permanent members of staff and for a few years built a business that mainly relied upon the use of freelancers, other small businesses with complementary skills and selective-task outsourcing for stuff I couldn’t or didn’t want to be doing…it worked well for a while and gave me time to concentrate on additional business development activities, building customer relations, tapping into my subject matter skills and experience better, but more importantly creating the necessary additional bandwidth and division of labour required to go to the next level.
The above model works, but there reaches a point when you know you need to recruit and start bringing on board permanent members of staff and this shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Recruiting the right experience versus what you can afford to pay can be a dilemma… there is a saying, ‘if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’. Sorry no offence to any monkeys I might know or inexperienced employees getting started out in life or changing career. Now we all know (in theory) the more you can afford to pay to attract the right staff, the bigger the pool is to select from…but the dilemma for the small growing business is that there isn’t a money tree and you have to balance risk taking versus a big dose of reality on what is affordable, and getting the best person for the job – the danger is you can under and over recruit depending on these factors. The downside of under recruiting is, it might suit your budget, but you will spend time that you didn’t have on more training, supervision, planning, coaching and generally you need to be prepared if taking on more junior or inexperienced staff members as it can suck you dry! The other side of the coin is to go big and it will be costly and no guarantees that you have the right person, might have great experience but their attitude might suck, or they might not be a good fit for where your business is at in its maturity and growth stage.
Don’t get me wrong there is win/win to be had from bringing onboarded inexperienced or/and experienced members to your team, if they have the right attitude, willing to learn and work hard and are bought in to the journey ahead – you can make it work. It takes two to tango, and employer and employee has to make it work, but make it transparent through your recruitment process and set expectations to avoid the worst scenario – inexperience and bad attitude, as it will kill your business, you will start to lose customers and everything you worked for will start to be negatively impacted….keep in mind they are employees and might have a different work ethic and work is not their #1 priority in life and that can be a disconnect when it comes to the mindset of the business owner and you need to adjust in some cases towards the employee’s perspective and keep driving engagement and knowing how to motivate them to create win/win/win situation for them, you and your customers.
Do your homework on pros and cons of inexperienced versus experienced personnel recruitment…it can be a false economy to go with the inexperienced depending on where your business is at in its journey. But everyone needs a start in life, so balance your head and heart!
2. Your Apps are multiplying, and your data is everywhere
When you first started your business, you probably went for some ‘FREE’ apps or very cheap and cheerful ones that were maybe not the best fit but got you through those early days. Unfortunately, you end up set in your ways a little and don’t know good from bad and get used to what might be a cobbled together bunch of different tools and data that exists across different databases and systems…it becomes costly to manage and maintain and terribly inefficient as your team and business grows.
As your business grows your need for fit for purpose systems and tools that support your methods of working, collaborating and communication with multi team members and more customers, best practices around scaling and growing will kick-in sooner than you think…and of course your new employees will be expecting the right tools to do their jobs. You will also need to get a better handle on how you will manage all aspects of the business across sales, marketing, customer service, project delivery, accounts, as all of a sudden there is more than you doing some or all of these things!
The key thing it to evaluate your decisions and look at what you use, free or paid subscriptions, look into the future a bit and explore what type of tools can support your business moving forward and involve your new team and / or external experts to advise you further. Feel free to evaluate some of our favourite tools, by no means is this an exhaustive list – check them out here.
Evaluate the apps (free and paid subscriptions) you are using and where you have pain points, inefficiencies and gaps and bite the bullet to look at introducing systems / tools that will support your growth better – having a single source of the truth for your data or at least making sure your core systems talk to each other will pay a huge return on any investment. Having the right features to manage and grow your business effectively will result in equal measures of happy and loyal customers, employees and business stakeholders.
3. The dreaded ‘P’ word
Well, I could say ‘people’ or ‘processes’ or ‘productivity’ or ‘performance’ or ‘profit’… let’s focus on processes as that will ultimately help the other ‘P’ words.
Hiring people should free up your time, right? Eventually, yes… but usually not at first.
As you evolve the business and begin recruiting new team members, you have to be able to onboard your new employees in a consistent and efficient way, show them how you expect things to be done – this can be a time consuming task for any young business and more so if you don’t have efficient and documented processes that you’re working to.
You will need to plan ahead to develop and mature your processes, otherwise, expect some turbulence and heavy demand on the business owner or more experienced staff to ensure the business continues to deliver to the standards you have set.
The less documented your processes are the more inconsistency in results and time you will spend on onboarding new employees, and the more errors, supervision and follow up time will increase, and it ends up a short-term challenge and one of the biggest challenges that can be underestimated. It can also lead to micro-management as demotivation of employees, so it needs to be a priority as you consider going for business growth. Of course, it also comes back to whether you recruit inexperienced versus experienced personnel and if you have too much inexperience then you will require more robust processes sooner rather than later.
Document what you do in the business – what is your sales process – does it have 5 steps or 20 steps, write them down. What is your process for delivering your services and products – yes, write them down. Make it easy for your business to scale and grow and define all of your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) you require for the business to pretty much work without your involvement!
4. A big dose of Communication and Collaboration (Teamwork!)
As your team grows, all of a sudden you might have different departments and they will have their own manager and meetings… scary thought!
You might be in different offices, locations or virtual, but regardless your team has grown, and functional and data silos has started to creep in.
To continue to scale and grow requires a strong mission, vision and goals and alignment across your team/departments/individuals. To support this, you require strong communication and collaboration across your team and customers.
Ensure your team and departments work closely together and make sure accountability for the business goals being realised are at the individual employee level. All previously mentioned challenges play a big part in this one – right people (right attitude), technology to support communication, collaboration and execution… and SOPs to remove the guesswork of how we do things around here.
5. Sales is the lifeblood of any business
Without sales there is no business and there is no growth…of course you can use this argument and say without the right people and / or if you’re not focused on your customers, you will not grow…
Bottom line is no sales = no business growth.
As your business scales and grows it’s vital to ensure the right experience, tools, processes and strategies are focused on your marketing, sales, and customers and there is alignment between your marketing and sales efforts/people/departments/data as they evolve.
As your business is using more apps than before, the number of contacts in your database is multiplying fast. And, they’re not even close to being organised.
Fast scale and growth companies invest heavily in their marketing (10+% of revenue), and this drives everything the business does and puts the priority on lead generation for new customers or towards existing customers. Check out our article on full customer lifecycle marketing here.
Fast scale and growth companies also invest in their Revenue Growth related systems and look to centralise data in one place, automating repeatable sales and marketing activities to free up resources towards other marketing and sales efforts. This is where CRM systems, marketing automation and sales optimisation platforms play a vital part. At Autus we prefer the term Revenue Growth Platform, as that brings everything into one place and centres growth at the heart of your business.
I could well be biased but this is what our business does and is where my passion is. For me, it’s vital to have a focus around your entire customer lifecycle, that way you are treating existing customers well, delivering a great service, building loyalty and getting repeat business or expanding on that business you do with them…but in equal measures growth companies have to acquire new customers and it merits a strategic marketing approach to lead generation leveraging various marketing tactics such as Paid Ads, eMail Marketing, Social Media, Retargeting and various other methods…but equally important is how you build your sales and marketing internal expertise, tools and overall strategy for success.
Create a marketing plan, budget appropriate marketing investments each year to execute on your plan, implement a revenue growth platform to place all of your data, marketing and sales efforts in one place!
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Autus provide Revenue Growth Platforms, Marketing & Sales Automation and Digital Marketing services to help sales and marketing personnel and teams build efficient and effective sales and marketing best practices and automate their marketing and sales processes by leveraging personalised content, various digital marketing tactics, segmentation and behaviour of their prospects and customers.
Autus recommend various products for automation, such as Active Campaign, Hubspot, Mailchimp and SharpSpring…it will vary on your requirements and budget the best option for your business.
Find out more here.
Our founder, Tom Berry, also provides selective fractional CMO services and is a member of some client boards.
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If our team at Autus can help advise further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our founder, Tom Berry.BOOK A DISCOVERY CALL