Congratulations! Your business is growing. You’ve got a dedicated client base, committed staff, and regular cash flow. Now comes the hard part: scaling.
Scaling is challenging for many companies. A company of a handful of employees can’t operate the way a company of hundreds or thousands of employees does, and the transition can be difficult.
As they scale, some companies view technology adoption as a panacea that will make all their growing pains disappear. Unfortunately, this is often a case of putting the cart before the horse. Before technology can help, companies need established business processes. The right technology can support these processes, but the main focus has to be on finding the right way to run your business and use technology to support that.
Here are some common challenges that companies face as they scale, and how processes can support the technology you need to overcome these challenges.
Internal Communications Become Unwieldy and Chaotic
Once of the first things you may notice as your company scales is that informal, flat communication structures no longer work for greater numbers of employees.
A CEO with an open-door policy that works well with 50 employees will find it’s an impossible time drain with 500 employees. Employees separated across different physical locations are no longer able to stop by colleagues’ offices in person. Email starts to clog inboxes and makes it difficult for employees to weed out the important from the irrelevant.
Technology alone can’t solve internal communications problems. Many workplaces have adopted instant messaging platforms like Chatter and Slack, specifically to cut down email volume. But if communication norms aren’t established, these tools can leave users feeling as frazzled and stressed as they were when staring down an inbox of hundreds of emails.
Chatter and Slack have recommended norms and processes for using their tools, but your company will also need to establish norms for all of its communications. Consider:
- How company-wide announcements are disseminated
- How employees in different locations or different time zones should communicate
- What are acceptable response times to emails and messages
- If there are channels that simply don’t work for your company (some companies are banning or significantly reducing their email use)
When you’ve considered what communication norms and processes work for your company as it scales, you’re ready to choose technology that will support these processes.
Gut Decisions Don’t Work Anymore — You Need Data
Founders and CEOs of small companies often make decisions based on their intuition, backed by their deep knowledge of the company’s industry. But as your company adds more services and products to its offerings, or as its client base increases dramatically, intuition is no longer enough. You need data.
As your company scales, so do its problems. The time and financial cost of issuing a product update or responding to customer support requests increases. While small companies can experiment and iterate on the fly, the stakes are higher for bigger companies — if a big company misses the mark with a new product, customer service reps are likely to be swamped with exponentially more customer support requests than a small company in the same situation, for example.
Let data guide you as you grow. Make data-driven decisions to address major issues and point you in the direction of where your company should go. Website analytics, surveys, data from social media and consumer data provide a wealth of information on which your company can make smart choices.
The right technology should help you collect the right data and act on it, from marketing tools which help you design and execute more effective advertising and email campaigns, to customer relationship management (CRM) tools which help you with sales forecasting and converting leads to clients. Having a good data management plan in place before implementing these solutions is the best way to see the biggest impact.
Ad-Hoc Client Management No Longer Works
In a small company, individual salespeople or account managers have established relationships with clients and most of the knowledge about clients resides with these account managers. Further, employees know Joan is responsible for account X and Awwal for account Y, and approach them directly when necessary.
But as previously discussed, as your company scales, it can no longer rely on these types of informal communications. Your company needs predictable and consistent systems for client management, as well as a way of capturing all client information so that if Joan or Awwal leaves the company, someone else will be able to pick up where they left off with their accounts.
This is where a CRM system comes to the rescue. It provides a single place to store all customer information so that it remains relevant and up to date. As a result, all your employees can have all the information they need about each client at their fingertips, and your clients receive a consistent quality of service. To achieve this, you will need to establish a process for how to use the CRM, and make sure that use is consistent. Clear processes are for before and after technology comes in to play.
Remember, technology is a tool, not a miracle drug. Technology alone can’t solve your problems as you scale your company. Technology when implemented in support of well designed business processes will make growing and scaling your business easier.