So many entrepreneurs find themselves reacting to the growth of their businesses — so much so that some even regret growing in the first place. I am passionate about helping entrepreneurs grow with intention through business-building frameworks to avoid that unwanted future.
What do I mean by business building? It’s a process of designing a sustainable operating model at each stage of growth, anticipating required upgrades to systems, processes and technology before the growth occurs.
It’s been my experience that most entrepreneurs don’t know where to start. They may turn to business-help books to find best practices to adopt, but I have yet to see a book that covers what I have seen work.
Perhaps I’ll write that book one day, but for now, I’ll share my top recommendations for business building at these four growth stages: startup, hiring your first business manager, surpassing 15 employees and scaling your workforce 30% or more.
A different operating system for each growth stage
A completely different operating system is required for each one of these growth stages. You can grow your business with intention by upgrading your operating system in anticipation of each stage.
Why is a different operating system required at each stage? Because your top focus changes at each: your business goals. At startup, your focus is product development, funding and sales. At the time you’re ready to hire your first business manager, the focus starts to shift to delegation: How can I do more with what I have? By 15 employees, you’re choosing between a lifestyle business or making a larger impact. And lastly, at scale, it’s all about investment and your revenue return on that investment.
At each stage of growth, it’s typical for the business to start accruing what I like to call organizational debt. Similar to tech debt, it accrues with time and will require investment to fix. In the early days, you prioritize other things over paying off this debt, but there will be a point in time where you can no longer ignore it as it will lead to growth decline.
Okay, so onto the good stuff: What business-building steps can you follow in order to grow with intention at each stage? At startup, surround yourself with people that address your gaps. If you are considering full-time hires, they need to maximize your reach. Fractional executives are a great way to achieve this without the risks that come with full-time hires. Lastly, outsource as much of your operating needs as possible until you surpass 15 employees: finance, HR, IT and legal.
Hiring your first business manager
When you’re ready to hire your first business manager, probably once you have 5-15 employees, don’t overcomplicate the role. Stick to the day-to-day operational needs that you can delegate and leave strategy out of the job description. Create a toolkit to lower your risk of turnover: job description, candidate profile, work assignment and interview questions. Lastly, start off with intention by creating a 90-day onboarding plan. At Expansion Group, we have some free resources you can use for this.
Surpassing 15 employees
Surpassing 15 employees requires a huge payoff in organizational debt. Now is when you need to consider bringing those outsourced operations in-house. This requires hiring, and that’s where you could poison your culture if you’re not careful. Create a blueprint for yourself to follow, in partnership with that new business manager.
The blueprint needs to cover three critical areas at a minimum. You need to get all core processes out of your head, implement a long and short-term goal-setting system and ensure your culture is defined by a well-thought-out vision, mission and core values. If you don’t have these, be sure it’s an inclusive process with staff or it could backfire.
Scaling your workforce 30% or more
Scaling your workforce 30% or more requires a complete upgrade of that blueprint you created during the last growth stage. Essentially, you need more infrastructure to sustain your growth. Strategy becomes critical, and you can even create roadmaps for things like the design of your organization, product development and the technology you need to put in place while you grow. These roadmaps should drive your business goals.
And if you’re opening your doors to 30% or more additional staff, then you better make sure you have a great idea of whom you close your doors to. This requires an idiot-proof playbook your recruitment team and hiring managers can follow.
There you have it: how you can build your business in anticipation of growth. Stick to these recommendations at a minimum, and you will be a head above the rest. Happy growing!
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