Plenty of companies, from food trucks to trucking and transportation, start out with one employee: you, the founder and originator of the business. You’re doing everything, from setting the vision to managing inventory to serving customers. And we know, it’s a lot.
But every solopreneur knows that a good business grows quickly. Often too quickly, as demand begins to outstrip supply, you need to hire more people and expand your operation, all while maintaining your existing customer base.
That kind of growth is a nice problem to have - but if you don't know how to manage it, it can quickly get out of control. Fast. To help you along the way, here are five things to consider when scaling up your small business.
1. Think Future First
To grow quickly and effectively, you need a vision. How big do you want your business to become?
Some businesses will define this in terms of revenue: do you want to be a business that makes $250,000, $500,000, or $1 million a year? Others define it in terms of geography: a construction company may start in New Jersey but have dreams to expand into the Tri-State area; a home repair company could begin only serving one city and make plans to offer services to neighboring towns.
Only you will know the right level of growth for your small business. Set a vision that works for you and build your business plan around it.
2. Make a Plan
Vision is one thing: execution is quite another. (Don't worry, it sounds scarier than it is). Once you've found your north star, you'll just need a plan to get there.
Your plan should simply cover the when, where, and how of scaling up your business. If you're going to expand into new geographies, for example, you'll need to decide not just where but when: if you're a transportation company looking to start making deliveries across state borders, will you be ready to do that in a few weeks, a few months, or half a year? And how many people will you need to hire in order to expand your operation?
Budgeting is a key part of the plan. Look at your revenue now and consider what increase in sales correlates to what level of business growth. Or, if you plan to fund growth before revenue increases using a loan or some other external funding, you'll need to clearly understand how scaling up your business will create sufficient return on investment.
Your plan can take any format you like. Find the level of detail that works for you and, most importantly, check and adjust your plan regularly. As your business grows and changes, your goals will too. It's completely normal.
3. Hire the Right People
Whether it’s growing your business with a partner or hiring employees, as you scale up your small business, you’ll inevitably need to hire people.
Hiring your first person is a major step for any solopreneur. Up until that first hire, you've been the driving force of everything in your business, and everything about it - the culture, its values, the way you do business, and what makes it unique - has been embodied by you. When you hire that first person, you're trusting them to carry that idea forward and embody your business just as you have.
So, whether you're hiring that first employee, finding a business partner, or hiring several people at once, don't rush. Make sure you find people who are aligned with your business goals and have a genuine passion for what you're doing. Nowadays, as supply outstrips demand, it can be easy to lower your expectations and hire somebody who isn't quite right. Avoid that temptation and find the people who not only have the skills - because the right skills, of course, are paramount - but also align with the business you're trying to build. Trust us, it'll save you a lot of distress in the future.
4. Pick Systems That Scale
With new employees comes new administrative tasks and new systems that come with them. Whether it's time management or tracking time off, you may need a range of new approaches to scale your small business successfully.
Payroll and taxes are by far the biggest administrative burdens. Many small businesses run into payroll problems as they scale up, working with systems that they outgrow quickly or that require too many manual processes. Some solopreneurs even make the mistake of not selecting a payroll system at all, thinking that the small administrative load of a single employee or two can be handled manually. This will cause problems almost immediately, and as a solopreneur, that's the last thing you need.
Roll by ADP was designed specifically for solopreneurs and small businesses, and it’s designed to scale up or down with your needs effortlessly. It also takes payroll and tax filing off your plate by calculating, deducting, and paying your tax withholdings and people for you. With just a few taps, you can get payroll done. If you have any questions, our first-ever chat-based technology will walk you through whatever you need, anytime or anywhere. With Roll, you don't get caught up in tax headaches. If for some reason, our calculations are off, we'll cover the cost of the mistakes, guaranteed.
Whether it's payroll, tax, or time management, make sure to spend time getting the right systems in place ahead of large-scale company growth. It'll be too late to do it effectively once you're in the middle of an expansion, and that preliminary work will be worth it.
5. Document Your Values
While it's last on the list and easily skipped, this task is as important as setting your vision and making your plan. Again, as you get caught up in the day-to-day management that comes with growing your business, it can be tempting not to think about the reasons that you started your business in the first place.
Don't avoid thinking about it. In whatever format works best for you, write it down. Communicate it to everyone you hire and use it as part of your hiring process.
Why? The bigger your business becomes as you scale it up, the easier it will be to dilute your original vision, mission, and values. Even more than that, it's possible that as a solopreneur, you never took the time to articulate your values. With new employees, new business areas, and new geographies on the horizon, you'll need to take the time to write it down.
Be clear, succinct, and honest. Distill your vision and values as well as you can. And each time you make a change or grow your business, refer back to the document to see if your decisions align with why you set out on this path.
It’s arguably the most important aspect to successfully scaling your business: not losing sight of what made you start the business in the first place.