Stay Flexible to Grow Strong

Expanding your business is a never-ending rebalancing act.
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Now that you've built it -- your small business -- they are coming. More customers, more orders, more profits.

Growth is good, but if it's not managed properly, it can overwhelm your company. How should an owner adjust?

Bob Gold, founder of mobile software applications firm

Gold Mobile and a number of small businesses, believes that typically a shoemaker doesn't make a good business owner.

"We aren't actually taught to think about job functions. Most small-business owners are experts in the product and then

they decide to start a business. However, a successful business is process-driven, not function-driven," says Gold.

As a small-business owner, it's imperative to balance products, sales, marketing, operations and delivery. If these different roles are out of sync within a company, it's often not as profitable as it can be and can quickly burn through revenue.

Many businesses, to spur growth, invest heavily in marketing but may not be able to meet increased demand; alternately, some businesses spend much time and money perfecting a product but not enough on marketing. "In general, product-driven companies are less successful than market-driven companies," Gold adds.

"It's a continuous rebalancing process," says Gold. Owners don't have the luxury of doing one job, especially as the business grows.

A reevaluation of your

business plan, considering the current environment, is helpful. Ask what does the market want, what do your consumers want and what are the competitors doing? The answers will guide any product or service reworking that needs to be done.

Adding to Your Team

Likewise, your employees will need to be evaluated as well -- the people who help you start a business are not necessarily the best ones to promote strong growth.

Gold speaks from his experience with Gold Mobile: "We were growing the business when there was recognition that we needed a more senior executive to take over as a chief operating officer." He then brought in Jane Miller as COO to manage the internal aspect of the company, allowing Gold to spend more time meeting customers and other telecom industry players.

Gold recommends small-business owners hire people based on outcomes (their effectiveness) as opposed to function (their job title). Just because someone has been successful at their previous job in a large company does not mean it will translate well into the same position in your small company.

Careful hires are also crucial because your employees represent you. "You can't rely on the brand of the company as your personal brand

in a small company. People are buying into the executive team in a smaller company, as opposed to buying a product from a larger established company like

IBM

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, where you are buying a product based on the brand," Gold points out.

Peter Clarkson, CEO of contact-lens provider

ACLens.com, says, "The approach we have found works well is when we hire people who are smart, energetic, motivated and we think are capable of learning the skills and Internet marketing."

Working in a small business is all about being adaptable, especially as the company evolves. Clarkson says he considers applicants from larger companies to be at a disadvantage because they don't always have the flexibility and cross-disciplinary approach necessary for a successful small business.

Still, companies will outgrow their bounds, and structuring more positions is often a key part of this. "We continue to invest in management that is building the infrastructure to position us for long-term success. We also had to hire a customer service person to keep up with the growth in demand and are currently accepting applications for a second customer service person," says Wouter Hoeberechts, CEO of

WorldMedAssist, a company that offers medical treatments abroad.

Kenneth Wisnefski of

Venderseek, which facilitates business-to-business interaction, believes that timing is everything when making new growth-based hires.

"With

our large increase in demand, we needed to double our staff size in a relatively short period. This was good in that all of the new hires were trained at the same time and bonded during the process, but it did require a lot of on-the-fly training to meet the demand while we got the new staff up to speed," Wisnefski says.

Growing Confidence

Growing a business is complicated -- as Richard Singer, founder of

RaiseCapital.com says, "It is not a one-trick pony. A blend of many skills is required to effectively grow any business. A good product or service is not enough. In the end, growing a small business requires the entrepreneur to be a financier, marketer, babysitter, salesman and politician."

But don't underestimate your ability -- America is an ideal place for smaller companies to explode into larger companies, says Gold enthusiastically.

If you believe that you have the ability to grow successfully, it will be contagious: Your executive team will believe it, your employees will believe it and then your customers will as well.