The best day of your business life: the day that dream client you’ve been pursuing for years signs the contract and instantly doubles your business.
The worst day of your business life: the day you start executing that new business without thorough preparation.
Expansion is scary, but with the right steps in place, it can be manageable. Just when you think you’ve accounted for every change that’s coming, a new one pops up and takes you completely by surprise.
Proper planning down to the tiniest detail can help you avert disaster. Here are some common expansion problems you might encounter and tips to avoid them.
1. No timeline for implementation
Stuff doesn’t spontaneously happen once you sign a contract. You need a plan, a really detailed one, that gets you from, “Oh, geez!” to “Oh, wow!”
Start with the basics, and then fill it in as you go. Assign tasks to department heads and hold regular meetings to assess your progress. A detailed timeline with measurable checkpoints will help you stay on track as you count down the weeks and days to launch.
Some things you might need are more employees, more computers, more telephones, more inventory, more warehouse space, more desks, more chairs. And don’t forget the little things—like more coffee!
2. Not enough manpower
Double the business doesn’t necessarily mean double the workforce. There could be some economies of scale. But you’re probably going to need more hands on deck. How many? Evaluate and decide.
It might be a good idea to hire more than you think you need in case there is some fallout. Where will you get these people? Do you have an HR department? Is it time to start one?
Remember, too, that increased work on your existing employees can cause stress for them. If you add too much additional work without enough extra help, you could lose the good people you already have, putting you even further behind.
If you need to expand your workforce, there are some simple ways to make it less overwhelming.
3. Untrained employees
Remember, those new employees don’t walk in the door completely soaked in your unique culture.
Even when they come with experience in the industry, your way is always going to be different from the other guy’s way. Get your new hires on board in time to learn your particular style of doing things.
If you wait until the new project launches to bring in your new employees, you’ll likely have a bunch of people standing around wondering what to do and how to do it. Meanwhile, your new customer is not impressed.
Don’t forget your existing team. Things will change for them, too. Do they need additional training? Get them ready first so they can help the new hires.
4. Outdated mentality
Your business just doubled! Your mindset needs to double as well. (Or triple. Or more.)
Rethink your procedures. What can you streamline? What can you automate? (Hint—as much as possible!). Accounting. Payroll. Timesheets. Inventory management. Put a team together to explore which apps you can use to automate processes. Take advantage of free trials to evaluate them.
Implementation can have a learning curve. Get a long way down that path before the new business starts. This would be a good time to hire a consultant. Someone from outside your business might be able to look at it with a fresh perspective. Be open to change because it’s going to come, even if you don’t want it.
5. Client expectations
Are you sure you know what they want? Does your engagement letter or contract clearly define your deliverables?
To you, “often” might mean once a quarter. To them, it might mean monthly. Make sure you understand each other on every level.
Your objectives must be measurable. That way you’ll know if you’re hitting the client’s goals. Wouldn’t you really rather exceed their expectations? Then you’ve got to know what your target is.
6. Not enough cash
This could be the killer. How are you going to pay for this new adventure? You know you’ve got to ramp up. More inventory, more payroll, more equipment. And it could be weeks after the first bit of new business before you get paid.
How much reserve do you have in your operating account? If you’re like most businesses, not much. Business expansion loans, lines of credit, new equipment financing—these all take time.
Even if you don’t have the new contract in hand yet, explore your options. Start the dialogue immediately. You don’t want to wind up with a bad small business loan arrangement because you didn’t have enough time to analyze every source available.
Don’t let your dream come true become your worst nightmare. With proper planning and attention to detail, expansion can be the best thing that ever happened to your business. Embrace the change. But plan for it.