Launching a startup can be as easy as coming up with a great idea and working hard to make it a reality. So, in other words, it’s not that easy. Sustaining a startup beyond the earliest months can be the most difficult time, however, with many new businesses failing to make it past the small business stage.
Even so, growing beyond the small business stage isn’t the end goal of every business owner. In fact, some entrepreneurs may be perfectly content to helm a small business for several decades. But for the many small business owners who plan to eventually move into mid-sized and even large business status, there are a few things they can do now to be as prepared as possible when that growth happens.
Know What Growth Means
Mental preparation is an important first step. Self-help gurus like to talk about how you can’t achieve anything you don’t imagine or set goals for in advance. While it can be easy to imagine a time when a business will take off, a business owner should be fully aware of what that means.
Part of mental preparation is imagining how much you want to grow, and what it will take to get there. That vision might not be as enjoyable an experience as you might envision. Achieving growth comes with certain sacrifices, including often giving up control to a board of directors or shareholders. Deciding exactly how much growth is too much is the first step toward setting long-term goals.
Learn Your Industry
From the time an entrepreneur decides to start a business, it’s important to begin researching the market as soon—and as much—as possible. A business owner should be fully aware of competitors in the same space, as well as the consumer market for its products or services. This background will be very important once that entrepreneur’s business begins taking off.
Line Up Funding
Before seeking even the first round of funding, business owners should know exactly how much money they need to accomplish their goals. It can also be beneficial to consider the pros and cons of seeking investor funding versus taking out bank loans, since the money will obligate the business owner for an indefinite period of time.
Set Up Supporting Software
Entrepreneurs will need tools to help handle everything from accounting to customer database management. In the early days of growing a business, entrepreneurs should take the opportunity to try out various solutions and determine the best ones for their unique needs. Once the business grows, they’ll be able to introduce the software to new team members, whether it’s financial software or something else that can simplify your business.
Create a Strong Mission Statement
With a one-person operation, a business owner doesn’t have as strong a need for a mission statement. However, once new people are on board, that business owner will need to be able to explain that mission to new employees. A well-thought-out mission statement can make a big difference.
Design Your Culture
Company culture is important to attracting and retaining the right workers. Entrepreneurs should think about the type of workplace they’d like to have, whether this means a structured environment with strict rules, a casual environment with few rules, or something in between. This culture can often serve as a reflection of the business owner’s personality, so the early stages of this process may involve business owners asking what type of work environment they would prefer.
Create and Provide an Employee Handbook
Once employees are already in place, it can be difficult to enforce policies. Instead, those policies should be set from the start using an employee handbook. Each new employee should be handed this handbook as a guideline on issues such as dress code, annual and sick leave policies and cyber-security guidelines.
Update Your Business Plan
If a business plan was created at the beginning, that plan should be reviewed on a regular basis to address any changes. This is especially important once growth starts, since investors and clients could see an outdated business plan as a bad sign. For brand new businesses, it’s essential to draw up a solid business plan as soon as possible. This not only helps satisfy investor and client requests, but it helps the entrepreneur solidify a business’ long-term goals.
Small businesses often operate with plans to eventually grow. By starting to prepare early for growth, businesses can position themselves to achieve their goals while still remaining true to the founder’s values.