I recently had a client reach out to me via text about the rapid growth she was experiencing with her business. Below is an excerpt of our exchange, which she gave me permission to share:
Client: “So I’ve got 4 clients now and I’m trying not to freak out.”
DE CEO: *smiley face*
DE CEO: Don’t! *Bryson Tiller voice*
Client: LOL!!! How in the f**k am I supposed to do this and work full time?
DE CEO: Well…
DE CEO: At first it’s little sleep, lots of work and prayer juggling both. Eventually you’ll reach a crossroads, that every entrepreneur reaches, where you’ll have to decide.
DE CEO: Most small business owners don’t have the luxury of making more money than their salary before they take “the leap.” It’s not always so clear cut.
DE CEO: Most times it’s momentum, projections, discipline and faith that make the decision.
This conversation poses the question many small business owners and entrepreneurs have had to answer, “What happens when you experience rapid growth?” Breathe. Shout. Work the plan.
Rapid growth is a scary but good (GREAT) problem to have. When you first created your business, or at the most recent pivotal moment in your company’s history, you formulated or enhanced your vision and plan to implement your vision. You planned for your site to accommodate X number of visitors; you determined you could handle X number of clients at one time (hours, space, financial threshold); and that it would take X number of dollars to do it all. What happens when a marketing or branding campaign is wildly more successful than anticipated? What happens when a product you’re selling via your online store sells out in no time? Or a blog post you wrote goes viral? Breathe. Shout. Work the plan.
Even the best laid plans don’t, and can’t, account for instant or viral success. There is no science of what gets retweeted thousands of times, or will get picked up by Bossip, or will sellout in minutes. What further complicates matters is that sometimes virtual success comes days, or even weeks later, then the original posting. The best plans have realistic targets, goals and benchmarks and account for the good, bad and in between; not being the topic of discussion in the Orange Room of “The Today Show”. So, as the recipient of this newfound attention, you’re more than slightly overwhelmed, may be experiencing difficulty breathing, and are probably contemplating smoking a pack of menthols with a glass of whiskey. Breathe. Shout. Work the plan (and stop smoking cigarettes).
The first thing you must do is deliver exceptional service and products. Generally, no one cares how busy you are, how surprising this is, or how buried you are under the avalanche of notoriety. Clients and customers in this wave only want what they’re paying for and a dope selfie. Always remember that your business, is YOUR business, and no one cares more about it than you. As you’re riding the wave, find ways to streamline back office functions, such as accounting, shipping, scheduling and customer relations so customer service doesn’t suffer in the process. Continue to deliver dope products/service that makes them not only come back, but tell a friend.
Secondly, adjust your branding. Leverage the new-found success by letting the world know. People want to try the new bakery with the long line, buy the new shirt they saw their favorite social media influencer sporting, and seek out the services of that new company they read about in the blog or magazine. In doing so, adjust your bandwidth to accommodate more visitors, add new graphics that tell your story and reinforce your mission, and ensure brand consistency across multiple platforms (same filters, font, logo placement, etc.).
Third, seek help. Most entrepreneurs are “go-it-alone” types and to a large degree we have to be. However, everybody needs somebody, sometime. Depending on your line of business, that may mean adding another hand at the shop, a virtual assistant to help manage the chaos, consulting your financial institution to see if an influx of cash/capital will help, or a PR rep if you find yourself getting a flood of media inquiries. If you’re unsure of which, when, how and how much, the best advice we can offer is… (insert shameless plug) call us, or someone like us, that specializes in Small Business & Entrepreneurship. We’ve worked with companies at every stage of growth and development and rapid growth is one of them. We’ll help you manage the process, scale responsibly and remind you to enjoy the ride. Remember, most small businesses fail within the first 3 years so if you’re at the point where this relevant to you, congratulations, you’ve won this round. Take solace in your victory, but don’t take refuge, because complacency is the enemy. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to call our experts and schedule a free consultation, or drop a line below. Until next time…