The startup phase is full of familiar challenges. But once you achieve success, your work is only beginning. Here’s how to approach the scaling and growth phase, from a founder-CEO who’s been there.
Building a startup takes time, effort, and a lot of determination. You and your team have invested in a great idea, and everyone works diligently to bring new team members, investors, and customers on board. However, the process doesn’t end once the product or service has taken off and gained popularity.
A startup can operate on a lean team, with people wearing multiple hats and taking on extra responsibilities. But as the company grows, it will be time to hire more employees and scale the company to meet demand. How to scale the business is an enormous question that causes hesitation for many leaders. How do you expand your business offerings and your team without losing the heart and inspiration that helped the startup succeed in the first place?
In my own business, Tekmetric, which offers shop management software for auto repair businesses, I have relied on a few tactics that enabled me—and our whole team—to scale sustainably. Here are four of the most vital.
Understand Your Company’s History
To plan for the future, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of the past. In Tekmetric’s early days, my five-person team and I were focused on creating a reliable technology—we didn’t necessarily think about the entity we were building along with it. However, our problem solving and determination to succeed would form the foundation of Tekmetric’s identity today.
The journey wasn’t easy. We faced challenges familiar to many startups: lack of interest, the need for financial support, and an imperative to attract the best talent around. We also had a lot to learn about software and how it applied in the automotive industry. In fact, that lack of software knowledge was an enormous setback, and there were times we just wanted to give up.
However, our failures in these early days were extremely important to our later success. Instead of giving up, the team faced our challenges head-on. We developed a new prototype of our product, established procedures to promote customer success, and created a clear structure within the company. And when the time came to grow, we hired talented people who shared our same drive and desire for success.
Those early days resulted in values that still permeate the Tekmetric culture today. When considering your own company, pinpoint your team’s top qualities and trace them back to the beginning. There are several key questions to answer:
- What defines your company’s essential identity?
- What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
- What culture have you built—and how can you hire talent that helps preserve that culture over time?
Set Realistic Goals for the Future
Understanding your company’s past allows you to set realistic goals for the future. When setting these goals, it’s important to consider industry standards and your team’s abilities and limitations. To be realistic, your goals must allow you to keep up with industry changes, but they must also align with your team’s capability to succeed. For example, if you work in the technology industry, you will need to set goals on a shorter timeline so you can keep up with new innovations and quickly changing needs, but you will also need to keep in mind your team’s current skills and limitations.
When Tekmetric sets a goal for monthly sales, we look at each team’s capacity to succeed. The customer success team may have a limited number of shops it can onboard each day, or we may need to account for migration time when transferring data. After identifying the limitations, we can then explore potential solutions that bring us closer to achieving our goals, such as investing in new technology or hiring more customer success team members.
Lean on Your Employees
As the company grows, it becomes more and more difficult for leaders to have a deep knowledge of every facet of the business. As much as you might want to know about—and maybe even control—every little thing going on within the company, there is only so much time in the day and so many places you can be at once. Your growing responsibilities as a leader mean you will be interacting with customers less and focusing more on the overall business. However, you do have one key resource you will need to rely on more than ever: your team.
Your employees are the magic behind the work your company does each day. They make it possible for your product or service to work seamlessly, and they create successful interactions with customers. Empower your team to share ideas and shed light on the changes that will be necessary to meet the goals you have established. As your arms and legs, they have intimate knowledge of the company’s abilities and limitations.
By trusting, empowering, and relying on your team, you enable the business to grow—and give them personal investment in the business’s success.
Continue to Grow Personally as a Leader
Finally, you must continue to invest in your own professional growth as your company grows and scales. You are the face of the company, both internally and externally. Your continued growth will allow you to expand your own perspective and learn new techniques to be an effective leader within the company.
Personally, I challenge myself to read at least one leadership book each week. Many of these books have similar messages, and by continuing to read those messages over and over again, they become firmly planted in my brain and daily practices. I also seek professional coaching through CEO peer groups and business mentors; these offer outside perspectives that help me work through challenges and questions that come up as Tekmetric grows.
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It takes time, energy, and patience to grow a company. At Tekmetric, we recognize that while we’ve had a tremendous amount of success in what feels like a short time, even that didn’t happen overnight. As you work toward your own company’s growth, don’t lose sight of the excitement and passion that inspired the company’s initial foundation. Set realistic goals and build a team you can trust and rely on. And continue to grow as a leader in your own right.
Scaling doesn’t happen overnight. But with the same hard work and determination that made the startup successful in the first place, you have the potential to grow your company and make even greater achievements in the future.