In the early stages of starting a business, most owners are focused on growth — growing a customer base, increasing revenue, and bringing on more employees to perform various functions. Growth is certainly important, and it can get a business off the ground. But there comes a time when a business will outgrow its processes and things will start to slip through the cracks.
Growth can take a business from one customer to 100, but to get from 100 to 100,000, you’ll need to scale. Growth depends on individual decisions made in the moment, but scaling is built on predictable, repeatable processes designed with efficiency in mind. If you have strong processes, you can hire a new employee, provide instructions on how to perform a task, and get consistent results within days instead of months.
Processes built with the intention to scale have efficiency at their core, and they eliminate bottlenecks whenever possible. Consider how easy it is to manually enter shipping information for your first 12 customers. That process will quickly spiral out of control when you have hundreds of orders coming in. The time and energy wasted on performing this manual process will prevent you from working on other parts of your business; before you know it, a seemingly innocuous procedure has dire consequences.
Even the biggest corporations in existence today began as startups, and they didn’t grow to their current size by working proportionally harder. Instead, their founders created smart processes with scaling in mind. For today’s business owners, that frequently means turning to tech.
1. Build a strong foundation for hiring new help.
In a business’s early stages, hiring is an exciting prospect. You’ve grown to the point where you can afford to bring on full-time employees, and you can’t wait to pick from all the talented individuals who can help your business reach the next level. Then, you realize that hiring means wading through a sea of underqualified applicants to find the right person, only to realize that you can’t afford him or her.
As you grow further and the pace of hiring increases, the situation only gets worse. You start hiring less qualified employees, and without the time to train them thoroughly, their output doesn’t reach important benchmarks.
To prevent these issues, rely on tools like eSkill, which allows you to create customizable tests that can assess job requirements in a slew of fields such as IT, HR, and sales. Or use Applied, a blind recruitment platform that times candidate assessments and anonymizes applications to help you avoid bias. It also allows you to batch applications to better compare potential hires.
These tools and others will improve your ability to assess candidates before they ever interview. By only spending time talking to the most promising candidates, you can make the hiring process more efficient, no matter how big your company gets.
2. Capitalize on clean data with strong organizational processes.
AI techniques can allow organizations around the globe to tap into $3.5 trillion to $5.8 trillion of additional value, according to research from McKinsey. Data informs decision-making in almost every industry, but the effectiveness of solutions like AI or analytics are entirely dependent on the availability and quality of data.
“We tell organizations time and time again, your analytics are only as good as your data,” says Vince Dawkins, president and CEO of Enertia Software. “Applying data implementation processes that help maintain data integrity and ensure optimal reporting capabilities may appear minimal upon inception, but once a business has grown, minimal can quickly change to thousands upon thousands of lines of data.”
Clean data changes everything. Move integral datasets to the forefront so they’re highly visible. Hint: You can train your software to use metadata to sort all of your data, ensuring the most frequently used and most important datasets remain top of mind. Also, store the most important data in the cloud so it’s easily accessible from anywhere. Automate data management by using smart software to observe data usage patterns over time.
3. Implement production processes that can keep up.
Consider Apple’s iPhone 8. In 2017, the company experienced production glitches that threatened to delay shipping of its latest version, and the company’s stock price fell as a result. This setback doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect on the largest company in the world, but similar shipping delays could be far more detrimental to a small- or medium-sized company that doesn’t have Apple’s brand power or reputation to back it up.
Before attempting to scale, you must have production processes in place that can easily handle significant increases in demand. That means getting rid of manual processes across the board and replacing them with automated systems that reduce the amount of human work required.
Tesla took this approach with its Model 3, which had experienced production delays of its own. The company had automated 95 percent of production as of June 2018. The company had even automated quality control during production, using 47 robots to scan vehicle bodies along the production line. By allowing the same number of employees to accomplish more work, automated production processes increase profitability.
Scaling isn’t easy, but once you implement scalable processes, you can focus on increasing demand for your product or service without wondering whether your startup can handle it. Focus on simplicity, and keep customer needs at the core. If you can check both of those boxes for each scalable process, you’re on the right track.
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Editor In Chief at ReadWrite
Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.