When you keep working and working and working, and there is still something else to do before you go to bed; you have a solid pipeline like you never had before and a few potential customer meetings in the same week, it means you have hit that stage: Like a baby, your business is having a growth spurt! And like a baby, it will give you sleepless nights, will take up a lot (time, money and energy) and will need your cuddles and attention 24/7.
Let’s face it, growing your business is not easy. It’s even harder when you are a solopreneur or micro-business owner in a slow growth sector. It requires wearing multiple hats in domains that you do not master well, playing the chicken and egg game all the time, and riding a huge emotional roller coaster.
Some of our members are currently experiencing their first growth stages. You can actually feel the difference in energy when an entrepreneur is going through a growth stage for the first time. They are focused and excited, but also a bit apprehensive. They are kind of in disbelief “is this really happening to me? Wow!” and they ask the same questions:
“When shall I hire? What should be my priorities? How do I ensure that the growth continues after I hire?”
The main reason why it is harder for solopreneurs and micro-business owners is because the growth of the revenue is not stable. And this is due to many reasons:
- At the start, when you grow your business, the workload increases exponentially. You have to spend more time working in the business, as you have to serve the new clients. So, your growth efforts are a bit jerky, like a new driver stalling the car.
- As solopreneurs and micro-business owners, chances are that your business systems are not optimal yet and most things are manual. Trying to learn new systems (such as a CRM system) or create systems (like a tracking excel sheet) takes more time – which you already don’t have enough of.
- Most likely, there is not enough cash reserve to hire full-time, highly skilled employees to build the team and training them can be pretty jerky as well.
The 5 Forces of Successful and Easy (relatively easy) Growth
When your business is going through a growth spurt, chances are high that, unexpectedly, more stuff will go tits up and you will get pulled in every direction. That’s why you need to make the word FOCUS your motto.
- Focus your time: Check your urgency and importance matrix, and everything that does not require your personal attention can be delegated to someone else. My philosophy is, that if you don’t have a strong cash reserve, outsource to contractors and start delegating any task that is time consuming / low return on investment. Get a VA! And no, don’t get an intern for your admin because, interns are great but take time and energy to train. Therefore, hiring interns during your growth spurt is not ideal. Simply because you don’t have time.
- Focus your marketing: It is not time to try new ideas, new segments or new stuff. Stick to the course.
- Focus on your offering: Don’t get excited with new ideas of products or offers during a growth spurt. Stick the ideas in your calendar and come back to it when things get calmer.
2. FUTURE and VISION
Sometimes, the excitement of growth and “grabbing the opportunity” can take companies on a path that might compromise their vision. This happens a lot with solopreneurs and microbusinesses. A big “freelancing” contract falls on your lap. As juicy as it might look from a pure revenue perspective, this type of opportunity might be somewhat “poisonous” for the real growth of your business, unless you implement certain strategies. What do you do? Most likely, you won’t say no to money. So, here are the three strategic imperatives for you to turn this revenue growth to a real business growth:
- Don’t be greedy with the money: Create a team of associates who can deliver the client work for you when needed.
- Protect your default calendar: Make sure you have time to work on your business and do the “important” stuff!
- Manage expectations: When you go to Wagamama (fusion Asian chain restaurant) and the entire family is served at different times, you happily accept it because, the waiter makes sure to manage your expectations and lets you know before she/he takes your order. If the same situation happens at another restaurant where you were not told upfront, you would not happily wait for your food after everyone has finished theirs. This shows how expectations management can create a happy customer for the same default of service.
3. CASH FORECAST
A business doesn’t go under because they don’t have a fantastic Instagram page, or a great product or excellent customer service. A business goes under because they have no cash. And funnily enough, more businesses go under during growth spurts because growth requires money. This means very tight cash flow management, if possible, laid out 6 months in advance, weekly visibility that shows exactly you when you will get paid and when you need to pay out your associates or other overheads. A few ways of managing positive cash flow is to implement:
- Short payment terms for your clients
- Upfront payments from your clients
- Longer terms of payments with your associates (definitely longer than your clients’ payment terms).
4. FIT SYSTEMS
A growth spurt is the time when you will need establish all types of automatization from your e-mails to your social media, accountancy, templates, on-boarding of the clients or employees. You should aim for a business that can work without your brain. All your knowledge related to managing your business, should be systematised and accessible. And setting-up this type of thing can be a perfect start for your VA!
You know what is worse than failing in business, merely surviving for years. There are so many solopreneurs or microbusinesses out there, where day-in-day-out, they work hard, deal with the stress of running a business and still have to worry about finances if their computer breaks down, or cannot pay themselves a decent salary, or going on holiday means working three times harder before and after… So yes, growth spurts are hard, you might need to work harder, stress more but let’s admit it, they are fun. They are positive and hopeful. They are dynamic and mean you are on the right path. So, my philosophy on this is “have fun, be vulnerable, own the mistakes and be open about it” Your business will reach its next level soon, it’s just a game of patience, consistency and resilience.
That is the main reason why Academy for Women Entrepreneurs exists. We help women solopreneurs and microbusiness owners to grow their businesses with confidence and fulfilment. We want to gate crash their growth parties and have fun with them!
So, if you want to make your journey of business growth more structured, easier and fun, check out our online Foundation for Business Growth course which focuses mainly on preparing your business to level up. And our AWEsome community of women entrepreneurs are always just a message away from each other, to show-up, to support and to celebrate. We say, leave no founders behind, and we grow our businesses together! Do something AWEsome and Join the FUN today.