Growing a business requires a lot of forethought, industry knowledge, good fortune, and, most importantly, good decision making.
But this is where many business owners struggle the most – making the right decision at the right time. I know I wrestled with this issue.
There are three areas I wish I approached differently while growing a business.
As we built our agency, our team was using inbound marketing from the start. But we were only doing a small amount. It was enough to get by, but we weren’t doing as much as we could have been.
For several years, we saw a good amount of significant revenue growth despite ourselves. During our growth, our team focused so much on the success of our clients that we neglected our own brand.
This was my first mistake – not dedicating enough resources to our own marketing efforts.
Ultimately, not investing enough in our marketing slowed our growth. But since we were doubling or tripling revenue, it wasn't apparent in that moment just how much we were holding ourselves back.
That all changed when we put Rob Steffens in charge of marketing two years ago. Shortly after putting full time resources into marketing, I realized how essential it was.
Changes like this happen slow, so as we added a few more employees to marketing just within the last few months, we are already seeing immense growth.
Takeaway: Invest more time, money, and resources into marketing out of the gate. When you're trying to scale your business, you're going to need all the leads you can get. Our marketing team has generated many more leads since we added more resources, which helps our sales team.
You can't grow marketing without adding more resources to sales at the same time. Both of these departments go hand in hand.
The more leads you're pulling in from your marketing department, the more people you need to contact those leads and educate them on your products and services.
This was another oversight I had. I didn't add more team members to our sales team at the right time.
When we brought on a couple more inbound specialists, we were better equipped to educate and consult our prospects. The more people we had for sales, the more time each inbound specialist had to spend on each prospect, delivering a better experience.
They're available to better serve them, which ultimately helps close more deals.
Obviously, adding more people in marketing and sales is a big investment. It’s daunting for a small company to do this without seeing an immediate return. But if you're ready to scale and plan for it correctly, you can build a bigger sales team that pays off immensely in the long run.
Takeaway: You can't scale marketing without adding more sales resources. They're two sides of the same coin. Build this growth into your budget so you can afford to add resources without putting too much strain on yourself and your team.
When you decide to grow your business, there's a simple rule of thumb. Bottom line: You need someone to take the reigns of talent management.
We just hired a talent manager, Jasmine Kaplani, a few months ago, but I wished we created this position two years ago. This is the third thing I would do differently – hire a talent manager when I originally made plans to scale.
I've seen plenty of benefits of hiring a talent manager almost immediately.
First of all, a talent manager frees up your time and the time of your leadership team. This allows you and leadership to focus on other critical business efforts that drive daily operations.
Another big advantage of working with a talent manager is how you can improve the quality of your hires. Talent managers find much better talent in their search because they know what to look for. They understand the warning signs and good qualities of a prospective hire when they review applications, conduct phone interviews, and meet them in person.
Hiring the wrong people can be devastating to your business growth plan. If a new hire doesn't have the abilities they need to succeed in their role or if they don't fit your culture, they won't stick around long. And turnover can cost you a fortune.
Bad hires also extend your timeframe for growing a business. You lose a lot of time because you have to repost the job opening and go through the entire recruiting process all over again.
The third biggest benefit of hiring a talent manager is their ability to build a talent pipeline. They dedicate their time to engaging with both passive and active job seekers. The more talent you have who is excited about joining your team, the faster you can recruit and staff as you grow a business.
In our case, we are trying to go from 25 to 75 people in a year and a half. Needless to say, we needed the help.Takeaway: Many business owners are apprehensive because talent managers are a non-revenue generating expense. But when you see the long-term effects – the better quality hires, the more time you and your leadership team regain, the pipeline of awesome talent – you understand the true value of investing in talent management.
Decision Making: Fear Based or Proactive?
Ask any business owner who survived the recession: Making decisions based on fear is the norm during troubled times, but it's never the right approach.
There's a big difference between making decisions with your back against the wall and making decisions when you're being proactive and already planned for investing in your business growth. If you're steering the direction of your business with a fearful mindset, you're being reactive, not proactive.
This is not a clear mindset to be in.
Push back against your fear and have faith in knowing your team will help make these investments profitable. And the best way to develop that faith is not through blind wishing and empty hopes.
It’s through putting the right systems and processes in place.
Timing was critical for us. But all things didn't simply fall into place. With the right people in the right positions, our team built a foundation that helped set us up for growth.
Our client services manager, Brittany Balog, established systems and processes that started working well for our teams. Rob, our sales and marketing manager, hit the ground running, doubling down on inbound marketing efforts and creating processes to enable sales and marketing alignment.
Collectively, our teams were delivering big results for us. This is when it all came to a head.
Everything happened at once, and I faced an internal battle most business owners go through. I had to stop talking about growing our business and actually take action.
I was able to overcome that fear that continued undermining our scaling efforts thanks to my team creating systems and also thanks to planning our cash flow. This is one of the most common obstacles business owners face when they're preparing to pull the trigger.
Lack of cash flow is the second most common reason small business fail. If you’re bringing people on with the mindset of “if they don’t produce results, they are gone,” your back is against the wall. Even worse, your culture is plagued with fear on an individual level as well. And employees can't perform at their best if they feel a target on their back.
As we continue growing our business, I'm fortunate to have the ability to reflect on what I learned. I gained a sense of clarity thanks to planning, hiring the right people, getting systems in place, and taking action when the opportunity arose.
If you're planning on growing a business, set yourself up with proper cash flow planning so you can dedicate enough resources to marketing, sales, and talent. Then, you're ready to scale.
What's holding you back?