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When is the right time to scale?

So, you’ve started a business from scratch and gone from wearing all the hats, to running a team and building a community of loyal customers and a healthy pipeline of demand. 

But how do you know when it’s the right time to scale by bringing in new people, processes, products and systems, so that you can grow with confidence?

What do we mean by scaling? 

When we talk about scaling a business, we can be talking about a number of different actions to encourage positive growth.

It could be that it’s the right time to invest in external expertise in growing and marketing your business brand so that you can build brand awareness amongst new customers and potential retailers. Or it could be that you need additional talent in the business – not just putting more ‘bums on seats’, but bringing in skills you don’t already have in your team and finding the right people to help transition your business. 

Investment in systems and processes is also an example of scaling. For example, onboarding an inventory management system so that you can work with national (and international!) retailers in stocking your product, and coping with high volumes of inventory. 

So here they are: three solid indications that now might be the time for you to scale.

1. You’re struggling to keep up with demand 

If you’re consistently selling out of products, struggling to keep up with customer demand, or being approached by domestic and international retailers about stocking your product, now is the time to look at upgrading your systems and processes to keep up with demand. 

If inefficiencies are starting to appear in your supply chain, warehousing, and order fulfilment solutions, it’s a sure sign you need to upgrade your systems. 

For example, moving from managing your inventory via spreadsheets, to an inventory management system such as CIN7 will save you a lot of time and reduce the likelihood of manual errors. 

Think about where the pressure points are that are causing you to struggle with supply and demand, and how you can alleviate that pressure and maintain business momentum. 

2. You’ve become a bottleneck in your business 

When you’re running the show and have built your success from scratch, you’re used to putting in all the hours and doing all the things, having full visibility on every aspect of the business, and having a say in every key business decision. 

But if your business has grown and you’ve gone from being a hands-on leader to a business bottleneck – holding up decisions and opportunities – it’s time to look at diversifying your team and freeing yourself up to focus on the personal magic only you can bring. 

For example, is your time better spent on developing new products, rather than spending hours on bookkeeping and managing finances? How can you free up more of your time, so you can be strategic and innovative? 

Think about where you want your business to get to, the areas you’re strongest in, and where you could bring in new team members to supplement your existing team’s skills. 

If your business focus is changing, new people could help you take on new challenges. Maybe you’ve only been operating as a wholesale distribution business and it’s time to look at a direct-to-consumer strategy. Does your existing team have the right experience and skillset to execute this digital transformation? Or should you bring in new team members who can work with you to drive this new growth plan?

It’s always a bit scary to give up visibility on the business and bring in new people. But it’s a key factor in facilitating and fast-tracking the growth trajectory of your business.

3. When business growth is slowing down 

You might have enjoyed strong growth, but now you’re seeing sales slow down. Often this is because you’ve saturated your core target market, and have already reached the customers that are most likely to engage. 

To get your growth back on track, it might be time to get more strategic about your marketing, to identify and reach new audiences and markets. This might mean engaging an agency to help you polish your brand and reach new potential customers. Or perhaps taking the opportunity to expand overseas, or to move into new relationships with bricks-and-mortar retailers to supplement your e-commerce sales. Driving these new levers of growth will likely require investments in systems, processes and talent as discussed above.

Without making these changes and investments in your business, you might hit a business plateau. Scaling in this case is about taking action to re-ignite your business growth, and being smart about where you focus your efforts in reaching new markets and customers. 

Choose your way to scale 

The idea of scaling and investing in the structures and talents to grow your business can be scary. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone, and realising the true potential of your business. 

Scaling means different things to different businesses, depending on where you are within your business life cycle. If you are ready to scale, it’s an exciting time to make smart decisions to encourage growth. 

Focus on the positives: what could your business’ future look like, once you’ve scaled and created new opportunities? You’ll never know if you never grow.

This article first appeared on Inside Retail. Licensed by Copyright Agency. You must not copy this work without permission.