When you start a business, you have all kinds of goals. You might want to turn your hobby into a career, free yourself from the cubicle, or improve your community. Beyond those goals, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you want your business to be a success that puts money in your pocket. To do that, you need to scale your business, and standardizing and automating processes can be a huge part of that.
What Is Scaling?
In simple terms, scaling your business is making it bigger. Maybe you’re starting with a modest dream that you want to turn into a $10 million company. Maybe you have a few employees and a single location, but you want hundreds of employees and locations around the country. Regardless of your exact goals, these are all examples of scaling.
How Do You Scale a Business?
There are numerous ways to scale your business. You can expand your online presence by improving the content on your website to draw more traffic to it. You can launch a social media campaign to reach new clients. You can network with leaders in your community, connect with influencers online, or buy ads for local newspapers and radio stations. All of these marketing and networking techniques can help you scale by getting more clients, but that’s not all you need to do. You also need to run your business in a way so that it can survive growth.
Why Do You Need to Be Ready for Growth?
Growth is a goal of all companies, but growing too quickly is not always ideal. To take a very simple example, imagine a business makes widgets. It has the staff and materials it needs to make 100 widgets a week. One day, a big retailer orders 10,000 widgets. Ecstatic, the business owners take the order. The managers scramble around trying to hire new employees and find the materials to ramp up production. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make all the widgets on time, the retailer drops the order, and the company suffers a loss.
Now, visualize what happens if the company has standardized process in place that promote sustainable growth. In particular, the company has an established set of steps that each salesperson goes through before taking an order. Based on that protocol, the sales rep tells the retailer that the business can only deliver the widgets over time rather than all at once. The retailer agrees to this arrangement, and the business makes the sale. Everyone’s happy. This process ensures that the company can take the new business without hurting its bottom line.
How Do You Prepare a Business for Growth?
As illustrated in the above story, one of the most effective ways to prepare a business to scale successfully is to standardize processes. To standardize a process, simply draft a set of steps that must happen every time you or your employees take a particular action. You can standardize recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, as well as billing, expense management, purchase order approvals, and almost everything else that your business handles.
How Do You Standardize Processes?
If you primarily work on your own, take some time to sit down, think about what works in each situation, and create a list of steps. If you work with a team, you may want to get several people together to work on standardizing your business processes. When you get multiple voices involved, they tend to have unique perspectives that you don’t have on your own.
Standardizing a simple process can be easy as writing down steps in a word processing document and distributing the instructions to the people who handle that activity. However, when you are dealing with more complex processes, you may want to turn to automation.
How Do You Automate Processes?
You can automate specific workflows and processes by investing in an app or program that addresses that particular issue. Alternatively, you can hire a software developer to create an automated solution for you.
To explain, imagine that you want to standardize and automate employee expense reimbursement. Right now, when an employee makes a purchase on behalf of the company, they bring in a receipt. You take the receipt and give the employee cash from your cash register. At the end of the day, when you reconcile the drawer, you make the necessary calculations to counteract the missing cash from the drawer and you enter the amounts from the receipt into your accounting software. That is a multiple-step process that requires a lot of human involvement.
In contrast, here’s what happens when you decide to automate that process. To make automation possible, find an expense tracking app, and have your employees download the app. When they make a purchase, they scan the receipt, enter a note about the purchase, and hit send. That syncs with your accounting software so the information is automatically updated to your records. At the same time, the app syncs with your payroll software and the reimbursement amount is automatically added to your employee’s next paycheck.
What Are the Benefits of Standardization and Automation?
When you standardize and automate as much as possible, you reduce human error and save time. You also create a predictable environment for your employees and your clients. When everyone knows what’s expected, that reduces stress and makes growth a bigger possibility.
Standardizing and automating processes help prepare your business for growth, but these steps can also help your business to scale. As processes become more efficient, you have time to focus on what’s really important, which is key to growth. Just remember to review your processes on a regular basis, as they may need the occasional adjustment.