08 Jun Scaling up Effectively: 5 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself
If you are looking to scale up your business in a fast, cost-effective manner it won’t matter whether you are expanding scope (new markets, increased sales) or expanding offerings (new services, new products) as either will impact your basic business infrastructure and will require you to review, or minimally question, the effectiveness of your processes and people.
Below are five essential questions you should be asking yourself when scaling up a business:
- Are my processes the most efficient they can be?
- Do I have the right employees and environment in place?
- What types of customer support needs will emerge?
- Will I be introducing confusion or miscommunication?
- Can I easily measure the success of my business?
Are my processes the most efficient they can be? Identify opportunities for creating a leaner, more efficient and more agile operation by introducing more standardized, collaborative and less time consuming processes. Here are some sample questions you should be asking yourself:
- Are my processes repeatable regardless of how I expand, or will I need to customize every time?
- Am I using documents stored in computer servers accessible only to local employees, or documents stored in a cloud-based environment accessible to anyone globally?
- Am I having to run individual, on-demand reports to get key operational or performance-based metrics to help me run my business, or am I accessing a dashboard that is dynamically linked to my systems and provides live updates on any desired metric?
- Are employees spending hours manually looking up data that could be fetched automatically by using Robot Processing Automation (RPA)?
- Should my organizational structure be product or function based?
- Should I have regional-only, global-only roles, or a mix?
- Is everyone in the organization clear about who is doing what and why and who to go to for what?
Do I have the right people and environment in place? Without the right employees in place your business will fail, no matter how small or large it is, so be sure to invest in your most precious asset.
Generally speaking, we are all wired in a certain way and our way of thinking and attitudes are highly conditioned and determined by our environment and experiences. We need to be mindful of this and carefully design, implement and nurture a business environment that will attract and retain individuals who will best fit our organizational culture and have the best opportunities to succeed. In my experience, when it comes to human resources there are two areas that deserve serious attention and ongoing investment from leadership: mindset and environment.
Changing the way people act or think is quite difficult and should not be the goal of any human interaction. Given this, if you are building a business that you feel will need to go through a lot of changes now or in the future, you will want to consider hiring employees who already possess a can-do-attitude, welcome or are open to change, are effective problem solvers, can think independently and creatively, enjoy collaborating with others, manage challenging situations calmly and are self-motivated.
If you expect employees to support you in your business and help you grow, ensure you minimally provide a work environment where people can openly and safely share ideas and concerns. One of the fundamental needs of human beings is to feel valued, and you should consider creating a strong talent and recognition program that adequately develops and awards employees.
What types of customer support needs will emerge? Aside from your employees your customers are your second most important clients and champions. New services or products will introduce new features or internal processes that will impact what’s delivered to customers and might lead to new customer needs, questions or complaints. Alternatively, expanding into a new market will introduce a language and cultural component that will require a different customer support approach. Given that internal changes might also affect external parties be sure to include and consider customer impact in your change management assessments.
Will I be introducing confusion or miscommunication? Communication is the bedrock of great relationships and successful businesses yet many people and businesses take this for granted.
It is imperative that everybody in the organization knows and understands what and why you are changing well ahead of changes taking place, otherwise you run the risk of negatively impacting morale and execution. On one hand, people might feel increasingly frustrated that they did not know about a change beforehand or have the right information, processes, people or tools in place to do their job well and meet the new demands. On the other hand, confusion can lead to slower execution as people are spending time trying to get clarification or learning new processes, not to mention the impact this could also have in quality. To remedy this, consider having at least these three in place:
- Create a business culture where you foment a well-thought out strategy of communication, collaboration and engagement with employees.
- Ensure hand off points are well-thought out and communicated.
- Provide up-to-date, simple, clear and easily accessible documentation for each process and tool used by staff.
Can I easily measure the success of my business? Knowledge is power and what powers that knowledge is data. Do not underestimate the importance of having a facts-based mindset and approach. While ‘data’ and ‘measurement’ are not the most sexy sounding words in the English vocabulary, they are profoundly transformational in their ability to surface insights that will make or break a business.
You can come up and action all the wonderful ideas you want but if you cannot measure their success you will not know how effective these ideas are nor whether it’s worth applying them on an ongoing basis. As you setup your business and scale up, you should be defining not only what metrics you will need to measure but how and how often you will do this and, whenever possible, design and enable your tools and systems to capture and extract these metrics in an easily digestible manner. Any time you are about to introduce new processes, tools, products, services or training and talent development-type programs, do not forget to ask yourself this question: how will I know if this will work or fail? This question should spark ideas on how to best measure, track, and analyze the effectiveness of any initiative before you officially introduce them.
Article written by Blanca Guzman Rodriguez, for BASE Conference.
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