Initially you’re selling your service one client at a time. Let’s say you’re a builder. You’re working on the current job and you’re in touch with the client regularly by phone or email to make sure the client’s happy and the job is progressing smoothly.
With rapid growth, it is much harder to maintain these good relationships. What’s needed now is a system of customer relationship management. This will make sure that from the moment you get an enquiry to the moment each job is completed, the customer feels satisfied and more likely to make positive referrals. By using a system of both technology and your staff to help maintain client relationships, you’ll avoid the common trap of neglecting some clients while over-servicing others.
When you first started up your business, you needed to invest some money into it before earning your first dollar. Growing businesses are the same – money needs to be invested into new equipment, staff, premises before the profits from that expansion start to flow.
Of course there are several sources of extra money – loans from the bank, loans from friends and family, or bringing on new investors are all options. With rapid growth, it pays to line up sources of extra money before it is actually needed.
Aside from lining up sources for extra funding, it becomes increasingly important to be across your finances and numbers in even greater detail than before. Bills and obligations seem to come at the business faster as they grow, and cashflow needs to be front of mind to be sure the business stays afloat. Regular meetings with your accountant to run over your business numbers will help avoid surprises.
As a sole operator you can do things your way. You can get by without much documentation of your methods and basically just figure things out as you go along. With growth, this approach quickly turns to custard. At some point you as the manager need to be able to say, “This is how we do it around here,” and ideally have instruction documents that staff can follow.
Changing from being a good tradesman to being a good manager is a mind shift that takes time. When the business is growing fast, there is often very little time to make this transition.
Bringing someone with management capability onto your team can be one approach, along with seeking good advice. Often a regular discussion with an external advisor can help bring your focus up from the day to day activities and help with this shift in focus.
When your business starts growing, the success of the business becomes no longer all about how good a tradie you are, it becomes how good you are at creating systems. This is a hard thing to get to grips with, especially when you’ve invested years of effort in becoming an excellent plumber or builder.