Many small businesses are able to achieve fast growth but aren't necessarily equipped to scale. What's the difference? Both terms refer to growth, but when you scale up your business, your revenue grows faster than your expenses.
Not every business can scale. Service businesses like restaurants, for example, typically have to add employees to serve a larger number of customers. However, if the restaurant begins relying more heavily on its takeout or delivery services (as many have done during the COVID-19 pandemic), it becomes easier to serve more customers with a lean crew—and successfully scale.
That doesn't lessen the fact that scaling is hard, especially early on. So what can you do to scale without burning out? We asked several entrepreneurs for advice, and here is what they shared.
Give Your Customers What They Want
Ashley Patrick, founder and CEO of Budgets Made Easy, successfully scaled her business in two months—during the pandemic, with three children at home—by following advice from recurring income expert Stu McLaren: Stop developing products you believe your audience needs and, instead, give them what they want.
"I finally made a product my people have been asking for," Patrick says, even though she had initially resisted, choosing instead to work on what she thought they needed. "Once I created that product, it pushed me into a six-figure income within a month."
Create Systems and Determine Standard Processes
Mapping out internal operating procedures, documenting workflows, and creating detailed instructions for team members is critical for scaling quickly, says Justin Hawes, CEO of K&N Sales.
"Scaling a business requires having the right systems, staff, and processes," he says.
Stack Business Processes
Taking the system idea a step further, Cole South, co-founder of Gold BJJ, which markets Brazilian jujitsu gear, has scaled his company from zero to seven figures by "stacking business practices that can be systemized and processed." By that, he means investing time upfront to build a system that can operate almost on its own, rather than creating a "treadmill of work" that requires an ongoing investment of time and effort.
South gives the example of launching a product on Amazon. "It's a ton of work initially, but once the Amazon flywheel is moving, the amount of work declines," he says. To achieve stacking, create detailed standard operating procedures for employees or automate various online processes using a service like Zapier, which connects apps or internal workflows.
Delegate to Clear Your Mind and Desk
"Make a list of all the things you do daily, weekly, and monthly, and start delegating even the smallest tasks," advises April Sciacchitano, co-founder of Mix+Shine Marketing. "The tasks you 'don't mind' doing are taking up the space you will need to be a catalyst."
Sciacchitano handled the firm's accounts payable for five years before realizing it wasn't the best use of her time. Handing it off to others "freed up my energy for big ideas," she says.
She uses project management tool Asana "to break a project into task items, so we can stay on track to meet deadlines, and my teammates can add comments and assign me tasks for review as well." For collaboration and task tracking, she likes AirTable.
Refuel Your Body and Mind
"This means a good night's sleep, exercise, water, and proper nutrition," she says. Not paying attention to these aspects of your life often ends up negatively impacting entrepreneurs, "slowing them down and causing foggy brains." Schedule breaks, gym or exercise time, and plenty of rest, she recommends.
Tom Winter, co-founder and chief revenue officer of DevSkiller, started practicing mindfulness on a daily basis "so that I could train my brain to relax and be present and connected with my surroundings." Set aside time for yourself that is "completely free of any work-related tasks," Winter recommends. That break is important for your sanity.
Implementing tools and tactics like these enables you to operate more efficiently and effectively, and that's key to scaling without becoming overwhelmed.