Getting ready to scale up your business can take time. Without having the right processes in place it is very hard to grow the business if products sell out or have poor quality because you rushed production. In effect, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.
So where to start?
There is a high chance that your business has not documented all of its processes. Your team were pulled in 10 different directions to build the company, time was just not available. This is very much the norm, but very fixable and you shouldn't beat yourself up over this.
Therefore, the first thing you need to do is:
Start to document your processes.
This can be as simple as a word document with a few bullet points and a few diagrams.
Ultimately you need to capture the key tasks/processes in your business.
Set out your core business functions. The standard to work through are - Operations, Marketing/sales and Finance. If a tech business, this comes under Operation. Ditto for R&D.
Note: over time, these functions may split to accommodate the volume of specific skills required e.g. seperate R&D. Other functions such s HR will grow in importance as you hire more people. You may even decide to outsource. However, you would still need to set out how outsourced arrangements will work for your company.
Doing a Functional Review
Starting with operations, as an example:
1. How do you design your products?
2. Who makes your product?
3. Where do you deliver your product or service?
4. When do you deliver your product or service?
As you go through this basic step by step analysis of your processes you can start to ask questions to address improvements for scaling such as:
1. Why do you delivery the way that you do? What can be improved?
2. What are the costs associated with the processes that could be improved?
When you have done a similar exercise in Marketing and Finance you will be in a position to start developing your IT and HR functions. Always consider the 'what, why, when, who and how' questions.
At the start, it is usual that the founders form a company with colleagues and/or friends. You have developed a way of working with each other and from time to time hired contract freelancers and dabble with interns.
However, as you grow you need to firm up your company culture and what it is you want from future candidates. As it is your business you can set the terms but bear in mind labour laws and regulations. Questions to start with:
1. What are the skills gaps? - Based on your analysis of your functions you may realise there are current skills you are missing. Can the existing team take on these gaps, or do you need to hire?
2. What are the upcoming skill gaps. As you start to scale, you will identify the roles you need to start developing.
3. Set out the qualities of the people you want to hire or contract. What level of education will they need, language skills, personalities types, prior experience etc?
4. What benefits do you want to offer or can afford? This will evolve as your business becomes more profitable.
5. Similarly for training, what basic training do you want everyone to have e.g. induction. What other courses are you prepared to fund?
6. Set out probation terms for new hires and develop performance management processes. You will have to learn the hard lesson of dealing with bad hires.
If your company is in tech, I want you to separate this from the usual function of IT. By this I mean a standard IT department sets out controls and manages the IT infrastructure for the organisation:
- Email platforms
- Telephones/mobiles and other communication devices
- Operating systems for laptops and computers Windows, Linux & Mac etc
- Specific software licences and SaaS access
- Developing in-house systems
- Website management
- Data controller function (often shared with finance- best practice for IT and Finance to work together and software should be integrated between functions)
Again as you start to work out how your main functions will scale you will start to identify what the IT department needs to achieve to support the business.
It can appear to be a big job to document all these processes on the road to scaling. However, investors look positively on companies that are organised and long-term it will set you up to be more reactive to change, improve profits and increase customer/client engagement.
You don't have to do it all at once. You can set aside an hour a week to work through documentation. Keep it simple, bullet points and diagrams will suffice.
Once you have a good view of where you are now, you can start to scale up and develop a plan for each function and make sure there are no conflicts between functions. If there are, what are the compromises?
If the thought of doing this is still giving you nightmares please feel free to get in touch as my services including documenting processes, reviewing process improvements and advising on scaling plan for all functional areas. The same principles apply to all industries and not having sector experience means questions are asked that you never thought about.