There is little doubt that we're currently experiencing a boom time for British entrepreneurs. Self-employment and SME launches are at an all-time high, with more than 600,000 businesses starting up in 2015 alone. While that figure is undoubtedly impressive, what's less inspiring is that during the course of the same year, the number of start-ups going out of business increased by just over nine percent. So what can you do to make sure that your vibrant little enterprise becomes one of the successes - not just surviving, but scaling up in the coming years?
In my experience, with PeoplePerHour, scaling a business isn't easy. Even with an amazing concept that thrives in the short-term, finding ways to grow can be difficult; you don't just need to find a new angle and a new audience; you need to find the right people to deliver your new goals; the right product or service to keep new customers coming and existing customers coming back for more; then you need the infrastructure and the funds to implement all of this. So, how do you do it?
These are our top tips for successful scaling.
- Make-Do and Improvise. When growing a business, just like starting a business, it's tempting to go all-in: you have your idea and you're going to throw everything you can at it to make it work. This is completely logical and understandable; however, there is a significant difference between planning and providing sensible implementation techniques, and throwing away good money. When you're trying to scale up, you do need to have a strong infrastructure in place, but rather than investing heavily in new tech, new software, new equipment, or new people, do what you can with what you've got, then make the investment once you've had some indication that your new venture could be successful. While you undoubtedly will need new resources if the project takes off, until that point finding the things that you think you'll need in the long-term can be time-hungry and expensive.
- Value Your Existing Customer Base. When you're looking to grow it's easy to neglect the customers you do have, in favour of searching for new ones, but the current customer is worth twice as much as the prospective one that may never come. Your existing customers are your bread and butter - and if you provide them with outstanding service, they'll do half of your marketing for you - cost-free.
- Create a Plan. Scaling a business is really no different to starting one from scratch. Yes; you already have your product, and you already have some customers and know what they like, but if you want to get somewhere you first need to know where you're going. Look at your current business plan, assess what's working, cut out what's not, then add in the details that can help you reach your next destination.
- Fund Thoughtfully. When it comes to funding a business, there are so many more options available today than there have been in the past, but not all funding is the same, so make sure that you find the best deal for your needs. There will be instances where a cash injection is essential, but make sure that you research all options in advance as some deals can tie you up with the small print.
- Market Carefully. Alongside products and services, marketing is at the heart of scaling, but when capital is limited you need to use it wisely. Review the marketing techniques that have best worked for you in past, then add to them. Investigate free marketing options - social media, online registries, add a blog to your website, list your business on Google maps: anything that will get your name seen.
- Hire Well. Finally, one of the major drawbacks that established corporations face is a loss of innovation. If you hire a team that share your vision and can perform their duties well you're half-way there. But, if you hire people who are willing to work to your standards while bringing their own expertise, knowledge and ideas, and who aren't afraid to question you over the details, that's where progress can be made.
Scaling - the annual growth of plus twenty percent - might be a dream for many small businesses, but it is an achievable one. The key is to work sensibly, practically, and methodically, without letting extraneous variables take control.