business advisory

Scaling your small business in 2021? Here’s where to start

The decision to scale your small business can be one of the most exciting yet delicate moments on your entrepreneurial journey. It’s a decision that many entrepreneurs face at some stage, especially if they’ve seen their customer base or revenue increase. 

While these are two of the essential foundations business owners, require as they determine if and when the time is right, there are a host of considerations to be aware of – especially today, under a cloud of the ‘new-normal uncertainty, writes  Suzanne Mitchell, Senior Director of Marketing at GoDaddy Australia.

Is scaling your business feasible?

Scaling up can take many forms, from hiring employees to bringing out a new product range or targeting new demographics or markets. Before putting the resources and energy into preparing and actioning a growth strategy, though, take the time to understand your business’s current foundations. Start by looking at your current business model. Is it healthy financially? Is the demand there to warrant growth? Are there any obstacles in terms of, for example, uncertain economic conditions or competitor activity? 

Next, consider your workload and if you might be missing out by not scaling up. For example, if you’re regularly turning down new clients, finding your products are often out-of-stock or simply can’t keep up with demand for your services, it might be worth considering scaling up.

Evaluate your goals with an objective lens to ensure there aren’t other factors at play, such as seasonal demand.

For instance, if you’re a personal trainer and experienced a lockdown-induced boom in people looking for online, at-home training programs, evaluate whether the request will be the same in 2021 with Australia out of lockdown and gyms reopen. Being aspirational and determined is essential, but so too is honesty. 

You may want to seek out the guidance and advice of a mentor or experienced friend, or family member who can provide an unbiased and external perspective of your opportunity. If you have doubts about the feasibility or timing – no matter how small – there’s nothing to stop you reassessing again in, say, six months.

After all, if you rush into a decision that you’re not 100% about, you could lose out in the long-term, mainly if you invest in people and product that you later can’t afford. If you’re comfortable that you have a solid foundation to scale and believe there may be long-term demand for what you do, then you might want to think about your growth strategy.

Sustainable growth strategies

Once you have evaluated your business’s current position, and have determined that scaling-up is feasible and in your business’s best interests, dedicate some time to preparing a growth strategy that will be sustainable in the long term.

This strategy should be built on solid foundations and achievable and sensible, so take the time to consider everything from your existing business structure and offerings to the current economic climate and consumer behaviours.

With a solid plan in place, spend time outlining how you’re going to scale up your business. Evaluate what is and isn’t working, decide which areas to scale first, and how you’re going to get there – whether that be hiring more people, investing in new technology or introducing new products or distribution channels.

If one of your growth plans is to introduce new products or distribution channels, for example, consider how technology can assist. Bricks-and-mortar businesses are essential parts of local communities.

Still, the growth of eCommerce in Australia is strong evidence of the crucial role an online presence can play for businesses looking to grow and engage with those beyond their local community. Tools like, for example, GoDaddy Websites + Marketing can help you build not only a professional website but one that works just as hard for your business as you do. Remember, though, sustainability is vital, so think about communicating necessary changes with customers and providing any staff with any additional training they’ll require.

Make it happen, and measure its success.

Running a business, particularly one that’s scaling, requires regular analysis and refinement. As industries and consumer demand changes, often rapidly, it’s important to think constructively and critically and ensure your business and the way it operates reflects the needs and desires of your customers.

Whether you run an online business or an omnichannel operation that ties together both online and offline channels, measuring success is crucial in today’s digital age.

For example, through data-driven insights and advice, you can easily measure and analyse your online operations and determine what’s working, what isn’t and if and when it’s time to refine your scaling strategy.

Scaling your business can be a delicate process, but one with the potential – if approached sensibly – delivers outstanding results in the long run. Taking the time to evaluate, plan and put digital systems in place could help your business scale in a way that is effective, sustainable and rewarding.

Advice for scaling your business through community

As a new entrepreneur, it is natural to think about growth, your next steps and scaling your business. The opportunity to leverage community as a catalyst for change is often overlooked.

I have been fortunate enough to experience accelerated growth with a community-first approach. As the Founder and CEO of Luminary, an inclusive collaboration hub that advances women through community, we opened our doors nearly a year ago and already have several hundred individual members and dozens of corporate members.

Since then, we’ve delivered over 175 programmes, workshops and events, expanded our physical space and even launched a podcast – all by involving our community, taking feedback and understanding their needs.

Not only do we listen to our community, but we also integrate them into our business. Right now, over 50 per cent of our membership occurs organically through word of mouth from our members.

We credit our ability to scale and focus on execution to the involvement of our community. Here are a few ways you can use your community to help your business grow.

Community helps you hire the right team.

You may not think your community has a lot to do with your hiring plan, but it does. When I began hiring, I leaned heavily on my network for the subject-matter expertise needed to identify suitable candidates. This network assisted in writing job descriptions, interviewing and compensation benchmarking for those roles.

Without this community, I would have struggled to employ suitable candidates and, worse, probably hired incorrectly, which would have cost me both time and money.

Your team sets the tone for the community you are building and the business as you scale. Each member of my team meets with, integrates and immerses themselves with our members.

They are equally a part of the community you are building within your business. 

Their commitment and passion for our community-first approach have helped us grow exponentially.

Hiring the wrong team is terrible for any business because it’s impossible to succeed without the right crew. Community helps you get this aspect right.

Community is the best market research.

Your initial customers and early adopters are worth more than any consultant or influencer: They provide a tool for growth more critical than any advertisement. Buy-in from your followers demonstrates success and more growth opportunities. After all, reputation is vital, and first impressions are everything.

business growth

Psychology of Collaboration

In today’s workplace, companies are challenged to keep pace with mobile employees and constant connectivity. Does your team have what it needs to stay innovative and inspired?

Listening to your customers and your community will help you with crucial business aspects like product development, pricing strategy, acquisition approach and more. The feedback is precious in the early days because you’re still trying to figure out how everything works.

While our staff are continually meeting with our members, we also ask that they participate in regular surveys that provide immediate criticism and suggestions for the business and better the community we are building. From there, we quickly respond to the feedback and make changes that help us grow and scale better.

For example, a month after we launched our business, we received enquiries about a less expensive membership for young women under the age of 25 to help them start their professional careers. We also heard from parents about gifting or sponsoring a membership.

In response, we launched our RISE Membership for this 25 and under audience, and now all our memberships can be gifted or sponsored. While these might seem small, they were decisions we could act on quickly for our existing community and prospective members.

Expand your community digitally

With much of our focus offline in the physical space, we’ve learned to leverage technology to continue building our community online. In Luminary, we believe our members must connect in physical areas and through digital communities.

When we launched, we leveraged an app that helped us get off the ground, but our community and their digital needs multiplied. Within three months, we had outgrown the existing app and had to find an alternative.

Again, we leveraged feedback from the community to help inform our decision on which technology we’d use. We heard they wanted more opportunities to connect directly with other members, provide more information about themselves, additional search terms when looking for a member in a specific sector, or a particular skill.

The data we gathered from our members became our guide to help us evolve our community through intelligent technology. These tactics enhanced the community experience, led to even more opportunities for our members to connect, and allowed us to grow faster and scale differently.

Your business may not need a community app, but I bet you, your customers, would like the opportunity to connect with your business digitally. This connection could be as simple as claiming your Yelp Business Page or creating a Facebook Page for your business but allow customers to connect – the results may surprise you.

Growing through community is a worthwhile challenge.

Growing through community is complex. It takes time, and significant effort, so many businesses fail to build a supportive fan base. It may not be the right growth strategy for every business. But even if it’s not the right customer acquisition strategy for you, remember the value your community has in helping you find the right team and in doing market research.

For us, listening to customers and sustainably growing our business is paying off in many ways. Grand audiences don’t appear overnight, and it is OK for scaling to take a while. With our community-first approach, we can grow at a comfortable pace and ensure the focus is on the value of our programming, which is core to our business.

We even rely on our community to scale our content. With over 70 per cent of our programming community-led by our members at the forefront, together, we have a more significant impact. Many successful and highly profitable companies are in no rush to scale. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received is never to lose sight of your mission, ensure you put your customer first and always listen to your community. It’s working.

Tips for Scaling Your Tools as Your Business Grows

When Should I Upgrade my Software Tools?

You don’t want your small business to stay small forever. You want your company to grow in line with your ambitions. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dreaming big, you need to ensure that your growth is scalable. If your capability is not equal to demand, it can create a range of problems – mistakes made, paying customers turned away, your team overworked and stressed. And this can tarnish your brand’s burgeoning reputation. 

The savvy business owner is constantly re-evaluating the efficacy of their tools, upgrading them where they can, and replacing them when they can’t. But when (and how) should you upgrade your software tools to facilitate business growth? 

Know the signs

It’s not like you get a schedule dropping into your inbox when your business starts to grow. By constantly reporting and reviewing your performance metrics, you’re perfectly positioned to identify signs of growth from increased product demand to positive sentiment on social media. 

However, you may not be able to see from your office how well your tools are coping with your newfound growth. Talk to the frontline employees who are using your devices, and keep an ear out for the following signs that could bottleneck future growth:

  • You and your team often get frustrated with the tool.
  • The tool creates friction that is detrimental to the customer experience.
  • You and your team spend too much time solving problems with the tool, which has begun to affect productivity.
  • The operational, productivity, and monetary costs of keeping the tool are less than the costs associated with replacing it.

Identify your limitations

The tools you invest in to get your new business off the ground may not meet your requirements several years later. It’s essential to take the time to identify the specific limitations of each tool so that you can find ways to overcome them. 

What exactly is wrong with the tools you use? Are they slow? Do they integrate poorly with your software architecture? Are they glitchy or unreliable? How do they create barriers or bottlenecks to productivity?

Asking these questions will help you to understand what you expect from your upgrades or replacements.

Use the cloud wherever possible.

The main barrier to upgrading or replacing your equipment, of course, is cost. This is why cloud-based solutions are perfect for businesses in transitional periods, on the cusp of growth. These allow you to scale your provision in line with your development, so that you’re never stuck with excess costs or tools that are surplus to requirements. They’re also affordable and easy to implement with minimal disruption and downtime. 

Identify the right tools for your needs.early-stage

Finally, it’s essential to identify the right tools to suit your changing needs. While these will depend on the nature of your business, we have some recommendations that will hopefully benefit GoCardless customers.

Xero

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform ideal for small and medium-sized businesses. It uses a single unified ledger, so you can work on your accounts wherever you are – including through Xero’s smartphone apps. In Australia, you can integrate it with Single Touch Payroll. 

Sellbrite

Sellbrite makes inventory management and order fulfilment easy and frictionless, with a host of multi-channel reporting tools. It enables businesses to list and sell products across multiple marketplaces from a centralised platform. With some packages free of charge, Sellbrite will be an excellent option for early stage, small businesses. The tool is straightforward to integrate with existing technology, including Shopify, Google, eBay and more.

Shipstation

Selling products online means spending a lot of time creating shipping labels, packing and sending orders. Shipstation is Australia’s most 5-star reviewed shipping software. It helps you save time and money by managing, importing and shipping charges in one place, integrating seamlessly with a wide range of eCommerce platforms. 

Free

Scaling up your business may mean scaling up your workforce. But this needn’t come with massive overheads. Free gives companies access to a vast pool of vetted and talented freelancers at reasonable prices – every freelancer on the platform is interviewed and vetted by the team at Freeeup.

Who is Hillyer Riches?

If you’re interested in finding out more about business growth, scalability or any other aspect of your business finances, then get in touch with our financial experts. Find out how Hillyer Riches can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

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