7 steps to get right before scaling your business

scale business growth

One of your business's earliest goals might have been someday scaling to become a well-known, thriving brand. However, to stay on track and make your success sustainable, you need to scale with care and precision.

Even if your customer base is growing exponentially and people love your product, you will need to adjust your team, operations and strategy to match the extra demand. Rather than working out how to scale a business fast, it’s better to do it slowly and deliberately.

To help you out, we've put together a step-by-step guide to make sure your startup scales sustainably and successfully. This checklist covers all the bases for your scaling plan – from people to operations, internationalization, digitalization and your growth strategy.

 

7-step checklist for scaling your business

 

Step 1: Understand your offering and the market

Before doing anything, go back to the basics: what you offer and why you're in business. Take time to ask:

Does the market want your product or service? Is there a real need for what you do? Back this up with real evidence, not just assumptions, and prove that you have a market to sell to.

What's your competitive advantage? Do you have a stronger product or service than your competition? How will you continue to stand out?

As a strategic tool to help describe, design, challenge, invent and pivot your business model, fill in Strategyzer's Business Model Canvas with your team:

business model canvas scale your business

Another great resource from Strategyzer for your business scaling strategy is their Value Proposition Canvas. This can help you to understand the value you offer and the customer gains to promote in your marketing:

value proposition canvas scale your business

Is it scalable? What's the overall market size? Is there a wide audience for you to reach and do you have a strategy to reach these people? Is there scope to continue innovating and increasing demand?

Are you certain about scaling your business? This is a key question to ask yourself at this early stage. For some businesses, staying intentionally small is the ideal outcome – these teams can keep things simple, maintain their "local hero" culture, and focus on a small group of customers that love them. You don't have to scale to be successful.

Once you're sure you want to scale your company, here's what to do next...

 

Step 2: Optimize your positioning

To help differentiate your business from the crowd and increase demand, get clear on how you can best position your brand to the right people and in the right places.

As part of your scaling plan, set aside some time to:

Define your target audience. Creating buyer personas helps you to direct your marketing and sales to the right people, optimize your messaging and your budget, and know who isn't the right fit for your business. Here's a resource from HubSpot to help identify your key personas.

Create a brand positioning statement. This gets to the heart of why you're in business and should influence every single action your company does. To create a brand positioning statement, fill in the gaps of this sentence:

{Target audience} trust {your brand} as the {unique product or service category} that {primary benefit} because {your brand} is the best way to {credibility statement}.

 

Step 3: Check your finances

Do you have a 360-degree understanding of your finances, needs and sources? Do the research and hire the right people to ensure you have a clear view of your finances.

Make sure you understand the short and long-term funding requirements you need to execute your strategy. Are you certain about where funding is coming from?

 

Step 4: Get your scaling strategy on paper

Pinpoint where you want your business to be in 1, 5 and 10 years. How do you imagine the future of your brand? What are your short and long-term goals? What's the ultimate vision? Get clear on your strategy before going full steam ahead with scaling.

Strengths and weaknesses. Have you done a recent SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)? This resource from WordStream is a useful starting point, as is their graphic to explain the key parts of the analysis:

swot analysis scale your business

Pay particular attention to current weaknesses: what are your business’s challenges and limitations? What is your team struggling with that could continue to be a problem as you grow? What do you need to fix before scaling? Asking these questions can help avoid business expansion problems.

Fundraising. How will you finance your business growth? Get clear on where the money will come from and if you want to start new funding rounds.

Internationalization. Do you plan on expanding to new markets? Which ones? How? On what timeline? What resources and budget will this require?

Digitalization. Do you want to invest in making your product or service more cutting-edge with technology advancements?

Growth strategy. What tactics will you use to grow your company and get more customers as you increase investment? These could include channeling more budget into SEO, content writing, events, brand building or your website.

Risk management. It's not pessimistic to think about what will happen if your scaling and investment do not work out, it's pragmatic. What are the potential pitfalls? How can you mitigate them? Think about this as part of your risk management strategy.

Team and resources. What people and resources will you need to make your strategy a reality and achieve the goals you've outlined?

Timeline. Do you have concrete deadlines for what needs to be done by when, by whom, and in what order?

 

Step 5: Do key housekeeping

There are certain things that when in order can make scaling a whole lot easier. These include:

A great CRM. Your growing business needs a robust CRM tool you can rely on. It should also be the heart of your business and the go-to place to find an updated view of any contact. To make this easier, sync contacts from other key tools with your CRM.

A payroll system that can handle a bigger team. Can you process salaries in a timely and efficient way? And will your current system scale to match a bigger team?

A reliable accounting system. Are your accounts up-to-date and accurate? And do you have tools and resources that can keep it that way as you scale?

If you have problems with any of your tools now, they're bound to get worse as you scale. Fix your app stack now and make sure you have the best foundation to grow your business on. It's also worth putting aside an hour to:

Start using a contact sync. By syncing your contacts between your key business apps, you can keep your data in order and up-to-date in all the key places. This will save you a ton of time and energy as you scale and prevent new data issues in future. Get set up with PieSync to start syncing your apps.

 

Step 6: Scale your operations

In the previous step, did you uncover any weaknesses in your business operations? It's important to address these before scaling.

Scaling your operations means increasing the scope of your:

SaaS stack, or the online tools you use to run your business. Do your business apps fit your business now and as you scale? Now is the time to upgrade systems, try new tools and fill in any gaps.

Office and location. Is your business based in the right location for scaling your business? If you're hiring new people, do you have enough office space and enough budget for this?

Resources. Is there anything else that's stopping you moving from to A to B? Get clear on it and know what you need to move forward with your strategy.

 

Step 7: Scale your team

As you scale your startup or business, there's a high chance you'll need to hire to fill the gaps in your strategy and bring in specialists for key areas.

There’s no one right way to scale a team, but it’s one of the most important things to get right – and one of the most common business expansion problems. Many startups hire too fast and have to make equally fast layoffs, which has dangerous repercussions for your brand, wider team performance and financial stability.

In an article by First Round Review, Chris Fry, head of engineering at Twitter, recommends maintaining small, stable and nimble teams as you scale:

“There is a lot of evidence that as a team gets bigger than five, and the closer it gets to 10, things get bad — you end up spending more and more time on coordination chores and less and less time doing the actual work,” Sutton says. “You also start having all these interpersonal problems because you’re trying to track the personalities and moods of 10 or 11 people. It’s like going to dinner and having a conversation with that many people all at the same time. Impossible.”

It's by scaling slowly, intentionally and carefully that you build the strongest possible team, product and business.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.