Scaling Your Business

By Kenneth Surbrugg, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University

Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?” – Judith Hanson Lasaster

Over the last several weeks I have been in presentations and conversations about business growth. Entrepreneurs are looking to scale their business, but are unsure how to approach this challenge. Organizations are experiencing an uptick in orders, but many are unable to handle this increase because local companies are seeing a six-to-eight-week delay in obtaining raw materials. Companies and not-for-profit organizations are looking to hire, but are unable to find applicants or resumes.

So how do you scale and grow a business?

Easier said than done, but it all starts with a close look at your current reality. Where are you now? What are the opportunities and challenges that you and your business face today? It’s hard to think about where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. So, take an honest assessment of you and your business.

After your self-analysis, decide where do you want to go. In other words, where do you want to be in three years? Where do you want to be in five years? Be realistic. For some, it is hard to think that far in advance, but if you are looking to scale and grow your business, you should have an idea of what you are growing toward.

I just planted a garden. I purchased the plants and seeds, tilled the ground, and then planted. With sun, water, and some careful weeding and pruning, I have a good idea of what will happen in about three months. I’ll have some fresh vegetables! And I know that because I know what I planted — it said so right on the plants and seed packets. There should not be any surprises as I watch my garden grow. Tomatoes and peppers should be tomatoes and peppers. Corn should be corn (keep your fingers crossed — this is my first attempt at growing corn!).

My point is this: My goal is to grow a garden. I tilled the ground, purchased and then planted the plants and seeds. I have a goal that in three months, with the proper care and sun, I should have vegetables. The same can be true with you and your business  on a longer timescale. You may have some untilled ground that needs to be broken up. You want to plant seeds, but maybe you don’t know what is in the packet. You know it will take some time and management to grow, but do you have the time and know-how to do it?

When I talk with individuals about their business, the topic of hiring comes up time and again. So, I ask: Who do you hire first? Is it an individual to handle the back-office paperwork? Is it someone to handle the marketing for your business? Do you hire someone skilled to do the work with you? And then the silence starts because the business owner does not know who to hire first. And that’s because the business owner does not know where they are or where they want to grow.

The other considerations of scaling, such as capital, physical location, and emotional tolls (you may have to hire and supervise someone, which takes some time and effort) also need to be examined. How easy is it for you to work late or on weekends? How much time do you want to spend with family and friends? What sacrifices can you live with? How do you handle the balance between work and home?

The pain of scaling a business is real but it can be rewarding. Start first with a deeper understanding of where you are and then set your vision for the future, maybe three years from now. As you examine your vision, look at the gaps between your present reality and the future. How do you fill those gaps? What do you need to do now in order to make your vision a reality? Start now — three years will be here before you know it.

To conclude, here are two quotes from Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Dreams are for dreamers. Goals are for achievers,”  and “If you don’t find the time, if you don’t do the work, you don’t get the results.”

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