Scalable businesses, whether small to mid-sized, franchises or startups, are the true test of your company. All of us dream of business success: having a stable and loyal customer base who wouldn’t think of doing business with anyone else but us. We imagine our new customer pipeline on auto fill. In fact, we conceptualize business success without conceptualizing whether we have the infrastructure to handle it.
Scalability comes into play at some point, after you have acquired your first customer, managed a sale with a second customer, and are targeting your next 23 customers. Scalability assesses the ability of not only your business and financial models, but the buy-in and capability of your executive team, to embrace and implement growth mode.
How scalable is your business? Scalability is a snapshot of how marketplace demands impact your status quo, no matter how nascent your business.
For startups, scalability defines that space when your startup doesn’t quite look like your startup anymore. In conducting due diligence, you – or your mentors or investors – have identified all of the warts on your “baby” and have requested that you improve your concept or models. This pivotal moment is when startup founders can disagree, when additional team members become critical to answering customer discovery questions, and when the viability of your executive team is tested. The startup honeymoon is definitely over.
For solopreneurs, who are both Sellers and Doers, scalability involves consideration of team-building, potentially with like-minded independent contractors. Who are the folks you can partner with to provide essential services which allow you to remain nimble and competitive in the marketplace? These folks can be plug-and-play consultants, virtual assistants, accountants, attorneys, contract manufacturers.
Small to mid-sized businesses often are family-owned, family-run, sometimes with multiple divisions. The founding members (grandparents) often are the bosses of their children (VPs of Business Development). Many extended family members are personnel. What happens when business and productivity growth demand new-hires, and you’ve run out of extended family-members as options? How scalable is your mindset to recruit, hire and embrace folks who may bring an outside-the-family worldview to “the way we’ve always done things?”
Needing to scale is a nice situation to be in. How you handle the need to be scalable, however, can be emotionally-charged. Most businesses have not incorporated being scalable into their original, and ongoing, business model design specifications.
While most end-of-year efforts are geared towards customer acquisition and invoicing, take the time to scrutinize your current business model. Think about how scalable your business model is; compare your business scalability to your growth potential.
How scalable is your business? How will growth opportunities impact all aspects of your business, including your executive team’s capability to handle expansion?
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers, engineers, manufacturers, and technical startups.