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First 5 Steps To Scale

Plan - Execute - Iterate

By: Michael McMillan

I really wanted to make this article easy on myself and say by reading this you have accomplished step 1, but felt that was cheating.  Below are the “next” five steps your business should take to get your team and biz ready for scale.

Now one quick note before we jump into this list.  When I am talking about scale I am not only talking about massive 10x scale.  This list applies to your business even if you are the Lone Ranger scaling yourself to your first employee, or a biz getting ready to move into five new countries.  No matter what the state your biz is at these rules apply.

1) Get your personal affairs in order.  

Ha! Bet you did not see that one coming!  When most people talk about scaling their biz they only focus on the structural elements of the biz, and forget about the people side.  

Forgetting about the effects of scaling your biz will have on your personal life is just setting yourself up for early failure.  When a biz scales it will demand a tremendous amount of your time and attention that I guarantee will destroy your utopia work/life balance no matter what you do to make this not happen.

So you can be prepared for this I advise my biz leaders to start preparing your personal life for scale now.  Tell your family, friends and loved ones you love them more, when you get time with your family be there and not on your technology, and most important is to schedule time now that you will always have for them and stick to it (weekends/vacations/etc…).  

When your biz hits that upswing 80++ hour work weeks will be your new norm.  Running that hard you will find that you need your loved ones supporting you, and not mad at you not being there for them.  This is why it is so critical to set yourself up for success now.

2) Document Everything.

Yes I know you have probably seen this a million times.  Well here is one million and one.  The ability for your biz to scale is a direct result of its ability to replicate itself on every level. The way you ensure you can replicate something is through documentation with regular reviews and improvement plans.  

It almost frightens me how many biz leaders I have spoken with that had amazing products/services, the most talented staff I have ever seen, but could not scale because they never documented out how things work in their biz.  The reason this is always a limiting factor is because as your biz scales you will ultimately need to bring on new staff.  That new staff will not have the experience and knowledge your current team has, and will need guidance on how to be successful in their roles.  Your biz owes it to them to have all of this drawn out so even if they never worked in the role you are hiring them for (which I don’t recommend) they could still be successful.

3) Put Yourself Through Your Sales Process.

Have you ever gone on the other side of the table and actually tried to purchase your goods/services for yourself?  Most biz leaders I have worked with have never been through their own sales process, and even more scary typically don't even know all the steps involved with how a deal comes into their organization. 

When we scale a biz we end up having to put many hats back on that we may have been able to shed.  One of the most common hats biz leaders will put back on is sales and account/customer management hats.  This is why it is mission critical that as a biz leader you must know your sales and onboarding process intimately.  If at any time you find yourself not familiar with what each step in your sales and on boarding process is, stop what you are doing and educate yourself immediately!

Your sales process is an ever evolving element of your biz that you must keep on top of to ensure it matches the current goals and vision for the biz.

4) Build Your War Chest.

I have boot strapped two companies in my life and will tell you that it was both the most rewarding and terrifying times of my life.  Going through this twice has taught me the importance of knowing the financial numbers of my biz at all times, and always ensuring that I have a strong war chest that I am building during peacetime. 

Scaling a biz is insanely costly.  Much of this is due to the fact that during scale you will experience a large compression on your profit margins as you bring on staff, inventory, and infrastructure ahead of demand to ensure you do not fall behind.  To survive this you need to have a healthy war chest to subsidize the burn on reserves your biz will go through.  

Now I am well aware that a healthy war chest is not always possible.  In my first boot strapped organization we literally were working sale to sale and had almost no reserve.  But what we did have was a well thought out plan on how we would access capital if we saw specific markers hit by our biz.  

To be specific our team built a plan and formed an agreement with our bank that if we saw sales of “x” that our bank would extend us a line of credit (LOC) of four times our estimated capital needs to ensure we had enough capital to fund our growth and subsidize our operating costs.  Through this pre negotiated plan is how we built out our war chest to make sure we were prepared for the cost of scale.

5) Run Today Like You Will Run At Scale.

I will be hired into a biz to layout everything it needs to scale, and then the company will just sit on this plan.  If you wanted to know why I don’t have hair anymore it is because of decisions of biz leaders like this.  

We just built you out a complete plan to run your biz more effectively and now you do nothing with it!  Come on.  

A good plan is only as good as the execution of that plan.  As you get elements of what is needed for scale immediately inject them into your biz.  This will allow you to quickly identify what will and will not work.  

Yes you are reading that right there are some items that may not work from the plan we built on your whiteboard when injected into the real world.  This is why it is so critical to quickly roll out these new policies, procedures and processes our so we can iterate them to your biz’s specific needs.  Doing this on a regular basis will keep you team sharp, and more adapt to change so they are 110% when it comes time to scale.

Preparing for scale is an ever evolving process that takes careful planning, and even more careful execution of well prepared plan.  This is why so many biz’s fail to ever see scale, or experience a short lived scale because they do not take the time to plan, execute and iterate their plan.  

As biz leaders it is important that we always push our team to grow them self, their roles, and the people around them to the next level.  Through this method you can always be sure that your biz is not only ready for scale, but actually ready to make a dent in the earth at the level of scale you will be ready to take on.

To Your Success & Prosperity!

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