When you’re running a business, growth is good, right? For the most part, the answer is yes—except when business is growing much faster than expected, and you’re struggling to keep pace. While fast growth is a better problem to have than slow (or no) growth, if you don’t meet surging demand without compromising on your business’s core competencies, rapid growth can damage your business’s long-term stability. Read on for three ideas for ways to thrive when your business is challenged by unexpected expansion.
Get Your Business Organized
If you haven’t already, now is the time to treat your business less like a side hustle and more like a full-time job. Start with a second phone number that’s just for your business so you can keep work and personal calls separate. You don’t have to bother setting up a complicated landline phone system; download an app like Ninja Number, set up an auto-responder, and start following up on client calls when it’s convenient for you. As your business continues to expand, you’ll find that it’s always better to handle inquiries when you’re ready than react to them when they arrive.
Of course, separating business and personal contact information is just one part of regaining control over your schedule. If you have the budget, you may also want to consider working with an assistant who can answer emails for you and handle scheduling. Even if you can’t hire an assistant, you can use tools like Calendly to make booking meetings and appointments easy for new clients. Many entrepreneurs find it helpful to schedule ersatz “meetings” to reserve time for mentally demanding projects, during which they know they won’t be interrupted.
Choose Your Clients With Care
When you first launched your business, you might have imagined that there’d never been a time when you would refuse new business. As your client base expands, however, you’ll find that a small subset of your clients is worth more to your bottom line than the rest put together. This is known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule. Although the Pareto principle is a heuristic that holds true in almost all business environments, it should be at the forefront of your thinking during periods of rapid expansion.
Audit your books to see which clients offer the best return on investment and determine the characteristics they share to predict which future clients will deliver the best results for your company. With resources and a little luck, you won’t find yourself in a position where you have to “fire” any of your clients unless they’re an immense drain on your business’s resources. Remember, your job is to deliver an exceptional product or service, not acquire more customers, so think carefully about which offers you accept.
Focus on Customer and Employee Happiness
Positive client experiences are at the heart of what makes a business successful. Whether you sell software-as-a-service to Fortune 500 companies or ship hand-knitted sweaters directly to customers, part of the reason your business is succeeding is your attention to each customer’s needs and support requirements. When growth scales too quickly, customer service often suffers as businesses try to keep up with demand. It’s essential to prevent this from happening. Use some of the funds from your business’s growth to increase staffing in customer service or hire outside contractors to manage client experience. Double down on asking for feedback via forms, personal calls, or social media surveys to make sure you’re still delighting your clients.
Employees, too, may need extra attention during demand surges. With more work on their plates, the risk of burnout and alienation is high, as well as the possibility of fatigue-induced mistakes and carelessness. Increase hiring if your current staff is overworked and ask for feedback about the company’s direction. Even the most dedicated employees won’t be as motivated to grow your business as you are, so make sure everyone who works at your company has enough downtime away from the job to stay focused when their efforts are needed.
Although you might not want to step away, it’s important for you to take breaks, too. Too many hours at work will fatigue your mind, and you won’t be able to bring the level of clarity and insight to your business that it needs.
Excessive growth has crushed many promising businesses, but if you take charge of the situation as soon as you see signs of rapid scaling, you can survive the surge—and thrive in the aftermath.