Rapid growth is undoubtedly one the most exciting times for a business. As an owner, you are finally seeing all your hard work and sleepless nights pay off as the money rolls in. While there may be a sigh of relief knowing you successfully conquered the grueling stage of getting your business off the ground, rapid growth introduces a plethora of new challenges.
Nine out of 10 startup companies fail. To avoiding being on the losing end of this intimidating statistic, there are a number of precautions to take into account during growth. When operations kick into full gear, it can be easy to lose sight of what has made your business successful thus far. Let’s talk about some of the most important things to keep in mind when navigating your way through this uncharted territory.
Define growth objectives
One of the most common growing pains for businesses is that the people involved do not have a clear vision as to where the company is going in the big picture. Operations and timelines can seem like they are running at light speed during rapid growth. When this is the circumstance, tasks and goals can get lost in the clutter and your direction can get hazy.
In this stage of business, most people are thinking (and talking) big. Whether your goals are to increase market share, boost profits, or streamline lead generation, you need to have your goals clearly defined and stick to them.
Setting objectives in stone early on can be difficult. Be sure that everything you plan in terms of growth is SMART.
- S – Specific. Each goal needs to be defined by numbers, as opposed to open-ended. For instance, you need to hit at least X dollars in revenue by the end of each quarter.
- M – Measurable. Every move you make to further your brand should be tracked appropriately so you can keep tabs on what works, and what needs improvement. If one of your goals is to increase web traffic, you need to be keeping a close eye on the number of visitors against the tactics you are using. In this task, SimilarWeb is a great tool for gaining valuable insights on how exactly your website is faring with new and existing customers.
You can easily track growth, as well as where each visitor is coming from to get a better impression of your target market.
- A – Attainable. Regardless of what your goals are (long or short term), achieving them should be reasonable, but at the same time, pushing employees to do their best work.
- R – Realistic. Reaching for the stars is common during rapid growth. However, setting unrealistic goals can turn you into a disappointed workaholic while both your business and employees suffer.
- T – Timed. A big part of achieving business goals is setting time-frames. For example, you might want to hire X number of employees by end of the year. Or, you want to be offering an e-commerce option on your website in six months. Regardless, leaving your completion dates open can easily result in tasks not getting completed, or forgotten altogether.
These days, as a business owner, it’s common knowledge that very few things are guaranteed. The best thing you can do to navigate your way through rapid growth is by staying grounded, humble, and committed to SMART objectives.
Invest in quality software
Successfully managing rapid growth all comes down to how prepared you are for big changes. There will inevitably be an incredible amount of new tasks to track and your current systems might not be designed to handle the workload. That is why it is crucial to look into software that will help you achieve your goals.
For one, a good CRM platform is essential. A lot of startups can get by using spreadsheets to keep track of customer relationships. Using this strategy during rapid growth is extremely risky and easily cause valuable information to slip through the cracks.
Keap is a great CRM software which has been designed specifically for small businesses to help them build better relationships with their customers and generate new leads in less time. With Keap, business owners can store their online and offline contacts, shopping carts, in-house inventory, billing, and payment services from a single system in an organized manner. Businesses can also access Keap from their iOS and Android devices.
Another big task you will need to master during this phase is effective project management. According to PMI, for every $1 billion spent in the United States, $122 million is wasted due to poor project management. As your internal operations expand, any lapses in communication or collaboration can result in the loss of leads, sales, existing customers, and more. For this reason, investing in a good system is a must. WorkZone, for example, is a reasonably priced software that has been serving businesses of all backgrounds and sizes for over 15 years.
Using the projects dashboard, you can easily delegate tasks and see where they stand across your departments, campaigns, or clients.
By setting up timelines and streamlining communication throughout, managing every aspect of your business will become much easier as workloads increase.
A big part of achieving your business goals during rapid growth is using the right tools to help get you there.
Test products constantly
During this stage of your business, you are most likely being pulled in more directions than you can handle with hiring new employees, expanding your space, creating new marketing tactics, and much more. However, the one thing you absolutely cannot lose sight of is the product or service itself.
Rapid growth obviously means that more and more people are using what you have created. As this number grows, there will most likely be issues and snags that arise. For example, when Facebook was becoming a big deal in Indonesia, Meenal Balar, Facebook’s international growth manager at the time, noted that users were commonly using the social networking tool to post and sell goods. As they would publish pictures and tag their friends in the posts, the data showed positive engagement as people were growing their friend's lists.
However, this commercial behavior had a negative impact on the core values in which Facebook built their entire platform upon. Interactions were becoming increasingly sales-oriented and spammy. Using advanced analytics and user testing, Balar was able to collaborate with other teams across Facebook and put a stop to this trend by encouraging more authentic communication.
As your company grows, be sure you keep up with how customers are interacting with your product or service. The last thing you want to do is stray from the factors and atmosphere that made your brand successful during the startup stage.
When your business reaches rapid growth, you will change a lot both personally and professionally. Regardless of how well you plan your strategy, there will always be the need for agility and on-the-fly thinking. Remember, this period of time is just as risky as it is exciting. Succeeding to the promise land involves the right plan, resources, and mindset.
Pratik Dholakiya is the co-founder of E2M, a full-service digital marketing agency, and PRmention, a digital PR agency. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Growth Hacking, Entrepreneurship and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at NextBigWhat's UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, and other major events across Asia. As a passionate marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge on publications like Search Engine Land, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web and the Huffington Post to name a few. He has been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica three years in a row.