3 Steps To Scaling Without Breaking
For many successful solopreneurs and startups, the biggest challenge isn't how to get more work, but rather how to keep delivering the ever-growing workload without burning out.
Few businesses can afford to jump from one to many in a single leap. Many get caught in the difficult trap of having more work than they can comfortably manage themselves but not quite enough to take on another person.
Trying to find a way to bridge that gap without causing damage to themselves or their business can seem an overwhelming task.
Most people fall into one of two categories...
Just work harder. For many of us we’ve been told most of our lives to just ‘work harder’, conditioned to believe working long hours and making personal sacrifices is all part of the game and the only real way to succeed.
So for many the default response to this business success is to just work harder, for longer, more often, and hope that one day you’ll get that big break that means you can bring someone else onboard and finally take a step back.
However, the reality is there's simply a limit to how many hours a day you can work without burning out. While ‘just work harder, for longer’ can be maintained for a short time, is not a sustainable business model. The toll it takes on your mental, emotional and physical well being, as well your friends and family can be huge. And if you're suffering, your clients and your business will be suffering as well.
Cut Back. For others, when presented with this burnout situation self-preservation kicks in. They recognize their limitations and rather than push on irrelevant, they limit what they take on to best match what they can personally deliver.
I've worked with a number of people who actually found themselves sabotaging business opportunities simply to avoid that awkward situation of having to turn down work.
Knowing your limitations and putting boundaries in place to protect them is a powerful tool - especially for entrepreneurs. And if you’ve made the conscious decision to limit your business to just what you can manage and you have the financial systems in place to do this effectively, more power to you!
However limiting your business growth purely because you can't see another way through can cause huge levels anxiety and financial stress that can in itself become disempowering.
Fortunately there is another way...
Build Flex in your business. Few business can afford to jump from one to many in a single leap. Workloads tend to be somewhat unpredictable and fluctuate with peaks and troughs throughout the year.
There is a solution though that doesn't need to come at your own personal expense. Building systems into your business that enable you to flex as your workload increases and help you navigate this exciting, but sometimes awkward transition period while also setting yourself up for future success.
So what systems do you need to help you flex?
1. Firstly you'll need a flexible staffing model.
While employing permanent staff is an important milestone for any business, bringing people onboard before you have the revenue to justify it can cause challenges for everyone.
Instead, making the most of flexible, temporary resources that you can use to scale up to match peak demands, and then return to your baseline in the quiet times, is one of the best things you can do.
Using freelancers or contractors in business is nothing new. And there are definite pros and cons to using them. However setting up some sound operating practices from the beginning can help ensure you get the best results with this powerful and flexible resource.
2. A future facing rate card.
A second and important consideration is ensuring you have an robust, future facing rate card (aka pricing structure) that is setup to recover any incremental costs. One of the downsides of using freelance resource is they have a more expensive hourly rate than permanent staff (though the incremental staffing cost of permanent employees is often much higher than people first expect!). You’ll want to ensure your charge-out rate is set up to support this incremental cost without significantly reducing your profit margins.
Creating a business Rate Card is also the blue-print for the your future team and when done right, it can transform not just your profit, but also your business. While it's tempting to just have a single charge-out rate when you're a soloprenuer and doing everything yourself, designing a rate card around the future business you WANT to have can help ensure there's a revenue stream ready and waiting when you're ready to hire. Find out more here.
3, Reliable, documented processes.
And thirdly, having properly established operating processes is key when onboarding any new staff, whether freelance or perm. Everyone has their own way of getting work done, some good, some not so good. It’s important to ensure anyone coming into your team is trained up on YOUR best way of working so you can have confidence in the end outcome.
Documenting your processes also helps you ensure you're delivering as efficiently as possible. It's often not until you have to write it down do you realise you could be doing it better!
All three of these aspects require time and effort to get them setup - and if you haven’t come from a business background (as many entreprenuers haven’t) they may seem a bit overwhelming at first. However these three elements, People, Pricing and Process, form the basic building blocks for any successful and profitable business, so time invested in getting them set up correctly is time well spent and will return dividends in the future.
And once you have them set up you’ll be able to take on that new client or extra project with confidence that you can not only deliver it without breaking, but you can deliver it WELL.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Have you experienced that challenging transition from one to many?
If you made it through, what did you find helped you the most to bridge the gap?
If you're in that transition right now, what's the greatest challenge you're facing?
What have you found that has helped?
I'd love to hear from you about where you're at in your businessjourney.
Leave a comment below and let me know...
Feel free to share as much detail as you'd like. You may find you're not the only one going though something similar at the moment.
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Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts to the conversation.