In business, we have been told to ‘Grow or Die”. We have been led to believe that the only way we can have a successful business is to always grow.
This is not a safe or sustainable way to have a small business. Certainly growth is important. Certainly growth does many things for you and your family and community. Growth can also destroy your small business. Let me share an extreme but true story to help illustrate:
Two people I know formed a company in a Midwestern city. They were growing slowly building their service business up to around $300 thousand in sales and 6 employees. They were confident and pleased with their success. One day, an opportunity presented itself for them to bid on a large contract with a local Fortune 500 company. They submitted their bid and won a $3.2 million dollar contract. In less than two months they were out of business and in trouble with the state.
The obvious question is why. The answer is this. In order to meet the terms and conditions of the level of service, the contract required they had to hire another 30 employees. The business they contracted with would pay them every 92 days. In simple terms, they ran out of money even though they had a $3.2 million dollar contract.
That is but one example. There are many others not as dramatic but equally painful. The secret of success in business growth is this; Control your growth, never exceed your capacity and make certain you can pay your bills.
The 8 parts of your small business must work together to ensure sustainable success. Those parts; product (service) management & production, marketing & sales, customer service & customer retention and waste management & team development, all surrounded by good small business financial management, will ensure you can, in fact, grow sustainably. The secret there is managing them with knowledge instead of emotion or “gut.”
Your plan to do this should consider the following:
- Has your sales and marketing function considered whether or not your production/product function can produce and provide what they sell?
- Do sales, marketing, production and product know if customer service can manage the new business?
- Will the increase in production and product cause greater waste?
- How will the team respond to this increase in work?
- How will this new reality impact your customer retention efforts?
Those are the minimum things you have to consider.
I once heard a business advisor present their service as the greatest and most effective way of improving your sales by as much as 100%. I cringed. Selling more without engaging all of the other components of your small business is the fastest way to business failure I know. Sadly many don’t see that coming until it is too late.
Effective growth is a controlled strategy. You never grow faster than your entire business can support. Frequently that is somewhere between 20% and 50%. Growth is not about more sales, it is about more profit. Using your eight functional areas to work together to control and reduce costs while sustaining or increasing revenue is a safe way to grow your business with minimal risk. In a perfect model for every dollar you reduce or hold costs you should increase revenue by $1. This ensures you can manage the growth financially while working your full business as a team to grow the business.
Remember, growth is a controlled defined strategy while uncontrolled growth is an out of control roller coaster ride that easily can end in disaster. You control your growth by:
- Ensuring all parts of the business work together to ensure revenue and costs are being effectively managed
- Your sales and marketing team are focusing on what is right for the entire business and not just more sales.
- Your customer service and customer retention team are included equally in all decisions about sales, marketing, product, and production.
- The capacity of your product and production management is included in those same decisions
- Your team is well trained and capable of the growth while helping ensure that waste is at worst, kept to a minimum while at best eliminated.
Doing this will safely and sustainably grow your small business while ensuring your business survives. And one last word…Never ever grow simply for growth’ssake. Always have a plan.