Award-winning business mentor, Martin Norbury - aka "The Scalability Coach" - has advised many businesses on how to boost their performance and scale up. So, what key advice does he offer?
Many clients come to us because they're stuck. Some have achieved reasonable growth, but hit a glass ceiling. Others lack knowledge of scaling up, some even feel slightly scared by the prospect. Here are my top tips:
1. Focus on what you want to be - not what you are
Don't base decisions on where you are - base them on what you want to become. One of the first things I ask clients is what type of company they want to become - £1m a year turnover? £2m? £5m? £10m? You must have definite objectives. The decisions you make as a £200k-a-year business are different to one that turns over £10m. If you want to become a £10m business - start thinking like one.
2. Make sure you're ready and fully prepared to scale
When your business starts to scale, things can begin to creak. Weaknesses can be exposed, and you can't always fix them once the journey's started. Pretty soon, everything can fall apart. You could be held back by your IT system, processes, cash flow, team or all of the above. Think very carefully about how scaling will affect your business - you must be ready and your processes robust.
3. Learn from successful competitors who've scaled
Think about how they've done it. How have they succeeded? For example, finding out how many staff they now have could give you a rough idea how many you'll need. Where are they selling and how? Understand their business model and learn lessons.
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4. Protect your business values
Things can change massively when your business is scaling and many things will compete for your time and attention. Be prepared for that. Also realise the importance of safeguarding your business values - which must not be allowed to suffer. They've helped you to be successful up to that point.
5. Build a great team of likeminded people
As you scale, you're likely to need to more staff. Your relationship with them might not be as close as with previous team members, but everyone must realise the importance of your business values. Consistency and quality are paramount. Create the right culture and an environment where people want to be and want to excel - then get out of the way and let them get on with it. All team members must be properly engaged, motivated, recognised and rewarded.
6. Have rules for your people to follow
I'm not talking about a strict regime, just something that guides. My business has a manifesto detailing 20 things we believe. It's up on the wall, should anyone ever need reminding. Having objectives and a strategy enables you to work out what talent you need. Recruiting the right people at all levels is essential to scaling up, and attitude is as important as skills and experience. People should be hardworking and ambitious. Everyone must pull in the same direction. Your people should feel able to suggest improvements where possible. This can help your business to get better, stay current and grow.
7. Access outside expertise when required
Recruiting might not always be the answer. Often it can be better to outsource tasks and functions to ensure the best outcomes. Also realise when you need to delegate responsibility. Free up your time so you don't get caught up in day-to-day matters, when your time could be devoted to scaling your business. Stay focussed on the ‘big picture'. Operate at your pay grade.
8. Never compromise on quality or consistency
They both enable growth. There's no point growing if your products or customer service deteriorates, because customers will go elsewhere. Having the right processes, culture and staff is key to maintaining quality throughout. You'll still make some mistakes when scaling, but understand why they happen, learn from them, get better and don't repeat them.
9. Identify your barriers to growth
Once you have objectives, part of developing a strategy to scale involves thinking about possible barriers to growth. Be honest and pragmatic. What factors could thwart your ambitions? What can you do to address your weaknesses and the threats they could pose?
10. Try to predict the future
Setting your business up to scale, by having the right products, processes and people, doesn't always guarantee a smooth ride. You can still experience difficulties on your journey, which you need to spot well in advance, before they damage your business. Having alerts provides a solution - simple numbers that help you to spot that something isn't quite working. Then you can fix things or take evasive action. When things go wrong, often it's because people haven't recognised the signs, which can be evident months in advance. Stay particularly close to your finances, and measure your performance daily, because that will give you 261 opportunities a year to put things right, not just 12 times because you're only measuring performance every month.
Martin Norbury set up his Surrey-based consultancy Advocate to "to help business owners choose their tomorrow". His passion to help business owners to achieve significant growth led him to write #1 Amazon Bestselling book, I Don't Work Fridays: Proven strategies to scale your business and not be a slave to it. As well as successfully starting, growing and selling his own small business, he held senior corporate positions before starting Advocate in 2010.